After all the Christmas festivities I had to get myself organised for a visitor. My brother asked would I mind providing a bed for his friend who was arriving on New Year’s Eve. They met in El Salvador and shared the same house for two and a half years. Apparently they had to share a jeep for work purposes as well and successfully took it in turns trying and succeeding in putting the jeep in the garage for repairs.
As an excuse the two men were blaming the poor roads but I have seen their driving. Last year when we visited Central America we arrived to discover a metal plate covering what used to be the back passenger window. I have to confess I only got to see one side of El Salvador as a consequence. My brother’s friend is from Leitrim and he managed to get one of the local village teams in El Salvador kitted out in Leitrim jerseys. I think it was the first time I saw Leitrim’s colours; I had to travel five thousand miles for the privilege.
Our guest arrived on Monday afternoon, New Year’s Eve. Thankfully the housekeeper made the necessary arrangements for the guest room and I haven’t heard any discussions about getting paid time and a half yet. I would have looked after arrangements myself but I had a wedding that afternoon. In the meantime my brother was doing his best as a tour guide. In the space of a few hours he managed to pack in the City Walls, St Columb’s Cathedral, the Long Tower Church and the Bogside Murals. Unfortunately the rain arrived and the walking/running tour was brought to a halt which was fine because my brother had offered to make dinner in the parochial house.
Thankfully the issue of being paid time and a half for the use of his cooking talents wasn’t mentioned; in this way he successfully undercut the housekeeper. When making his offer he mentioned the minor detail of buying a chicken the day before. I know my brother was initially cooking for himself but the chicken must have shrunk.
In all honesty the dinner was beautiful even though the bird looked like a pigeon on steroids.
Thankfully other arrangements had been made to visit friends after the fireworks in time for their New Year’s Eve buffet. After dinner the walking turn continued as we introduced the man from Leitrim to the Top of the Hill, Fountain Hill and then Moore Street for good measure. Luckily we made it onto the Craigavon Bridge in time to be soaked by rain coming from all four directions. The only disadvantage to wearing a waterproof coat is the run-off effect which soaks your trousers. However we found shelter before and after the fireworks which launched the City of Culture celebrations. It was a speculator event only overshadowed by the sight of all the food on the kitchen table later that evening.
Looking down the Foyle as the city sky line was illuminated by every colour of the rainbow was an amazing experience. Thousands had braved the conditions to watch the lights explode in the sky.
Reflecting on the Epiphany I often wondered how the three wise men had recognised the star which led them to the birthplace of Christ. How did they know in their hearts and minds the sign to follow God’s call. This seems to be at the heart of what we call wisdom in both the New and Old Testaments, this need for discernment finding the space in our lives to recognise God’s call and celebrate his presence in our lives.
As we come to the close of our Christmas celebrations with the Epiphany of the Lord this is a moment to ask what all our preparations have been about. Have the days been times of grace for our families, have we changed as people in the light of the celebration of Jesus’ birth, awaiting his return in glory?
As the sky was lit up on New Year’s evening it would have been impossible to ignore or dismiss the presence of a significant event. Often in our lives God approaches us through smaller light and unless we attune our hearts and minds we will fail to recognise them.
As we begin the New Year 2013, we approach these days and months with much anticipation and expectation. Hopefully this year will be a cause for joy for all our people, for our family, friends and community as a whole.
This is a moment to celebrate what unites all men and women regardless of their political, religious or cultural background. Over two thousand years ago three men discovered an innocent child lying in a manger, a child who was the fulfilment of all our hopes and dreams. Are we prepared to accept Jesus as the light leading all people towards our homeland in God’s kingdom? This journey begins now, it begins from the moment we accept God’s call, when we begin to understand the gift of baptism. It doesn’t end in one year but at the end of our lives when God, faithful to his promises will gather all those who listened to his voice into his loving embrace. We have been asked to follow Jesus by becoming light in a world often overshadowed by darkness in order to provide hope and build peace.