On the night before Christmas Eve I stayed at home which was crowded now that my two brothers have returned home. When they’re away I do miss them but within a few days of their return the novelty has worn off and they lie about the house like so many Christmas presents.
Not that I should complain; compared to the good old days six people and two dogs in a three bedroom house would constitute luxury. However this meant I was relegated to the top bunk bed which isn’t an easy obstacle to negotiate in daylight never mind at night. Fortunately there weren’t any serious injuries to report on the morn of Christmas Eve. As I was asking my father for a lift back to the Parochial House my mother suddenly remembered she had a few more messages to get whilst the turkey defrosted. Knowing my luck she probably remembered she had forgotten to buy Brussel sprouts. All I can say is thank God for brown sauce, or I’ll resort to pushing the sprouts around the plate.
Anyway back in the car my father was listening to Downtown Radio station; it was the golden oldie show which is more in keeping with his stage in life. He and my mother are already checking the death notices in the Derry Journal to see who they know. As you might guess the radio was dominated by Christmas songs and then I heard the first note and it took me way back as Johnny Mathis sang ‘A Child is Born.’
I’m not a fan of the monologue in the middle; he should stick to the singing and leave the speeches to others. As a child I remember the old record player which my mother tried to keep safe in the house. All I can mind as I ripped the arm from the record player and used the needle to scratch my mother’s extensive collection of two records was the strange fact the record player was encased in wood although it still wasn’t child proof. One of the records she used to have was the aforementioned Johnny Mathis song, anyway she soon went off him and became a Neil Diamond fan instead.
Psychologists tell us childhood has a major impact upon the way we live out our adult life. This might explain why over the years I have brought my mother firstly one tape player and then one CD player after another; it has to be guilt left over from performing every child’s duty by destroying anything of value in the house, including the record player.
This year I decided to be different and brought her a digital radio instead, not that she has a clue how to turn it on. If I was being really generous I could have splashed out on a Country and Western CD, yet I wasn’t sure I could handle the thought of listening to how some man’s wife, children and dog ran off at Christmas, although the thought of a dog running off does inspire some seasonal cheer. A number of years ago we suffered from a Willie Nelson overload and a number of us are still in counselling, that’s why I had to move house when I heard Fr Roland had bought a Daniel O’Donnell CD!
The story of Jesus birth characterised his whole life. Born on the margins he was to remain on the periphery, on the outside. He was born in a stable away from the towns and the cities; as he was born outside the city walls so he was to die outside the city walls.
For all those people, for all of us who have ever experienced rejection, refusal, pain loss and distress today is a good day. Today we hear the message of salvation in the cries of an infant, because for us a child is born. God has come into our world, joined our human race and experienced the joys and sorrows, highs and lows of life. God has drawn close to his people to guide them along the path of discipleship, leading them towards his eternal kingdom.
He calls out to all those on the margins, all those rejected by this world and society and promises to love them with a love which conquers and destroys even death itself. This is our hope, this is our joy because Christ is the light of the world over the darkness which has overshadowed our lives.
The American Priest Robert Barron in his introduction to his book ‘Catholicism’ explains how Christianity and Catholicism in particular was shaped and distinguished by the mystery of the Incarnation, God’s presence amongst us.
God remains with his people gathered as his Church, in the celebration of the sacraments, in the hearing of God’s world, in the Christian tradition and rituals which form the heart of our faith in Jesus Christ. For over two thousand years God in Jesus Christ has been united with his people through the presence and gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is through the Spirit sent by the father and the Son that we can gather and celebrate as brothers and sisters in Christ. As God’s children we give thanks and praise for so great a gift. In God’s eyes none of us is ever rejected, none of us ever go unnoticed, no-one is beyond the height, depth or breath of his love. For us a child is born. God is close and promises to remain with us and guide us forever, may we have the courage to open the door of our hearts.
Fr Chris writes in the Journal every Friday