CHRISTMAS 2018: All I Want

Nativity by Bradi Barth

The Bishop stands up and I get nervous because I feel he's going to make me jump from an aeroplane. It's a feeling, a sensation that runs through me, not a physical possibility. He has himself actually done it - jumped from an aeroplane. There's a challenge afoot and I'm afraid I won't be able for it - his plan for the renewal and future of the diocese. Having been through countless meetings like this and being the age I am I'm doubtful about what might be proposed. The language of it. I have no doubt about the Bishop’s own commitment, the energy that he’s putting into this whole process, never flagging in zeal.

What sets me at ease is the line of Scripture he uses, "the Word who is life, this is our subject" - one of my favourite lines of the bible, my favourite reality. Bishop Richard  says that we go wildly wrong if we do not keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. This I agree with and I feel absolutely safe with Jesus.

The discussion that follows the presentation is disappointing because of people's preoccupation with money and externals, though much of this was concern for the  material wellbeing of priests.  Our own Maggie spoke passionately about revealing the face of Christ to each other, and I had to go and give her a hug  afterwards, because for me her's was the statement of the night that dispelled the cold that had crept in around our legs.

Christmas invites us to take a leap into the simplicity of the stable, into the innocence of Jesus, the warm tenderness of love that is to be found in him, to have a first-hand experience of Him so that we might say with St. John that Jesus the Word who is life is someone “we have seen with our own eyes and touched with our hands.” (1 John 1)

Christmas songs rise easily in me at this time of year, my preferred one being Silent Night, but there are secular ones that surface too with memories. Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” brings me right back to my second year in Thurles polishing the hall and singing that song to myself, the anticipation of going home stirring strong with it.

Some Christmas songs annoy me, like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” that continues to race up the charts year after year. The pose of her annoys me. But  something changed those feelings a recent Monday night down in Porters where we were celebrating ten year-old Lila who had finished her treatment for a brain tumour that very day. A lovely, lovely evening. 

And the guy with the guitar started Mariah’s song and it really got the crowd going. The transformation for me came as I watched this girl and her friend  Isabelle bopping and singing with all their might and when it came to the line “all I want for Christmas is you” the friends pointed happily at each other. Precious friendship, precious life. So, when I think of that song or hear it I will see these two friends! And God's power to transform what we do not like into something meaningful. 

All I want for Christmas is to come to the stable for a new encounter  with the One who gives Christmas its meaning; my earnest wish is that everyone in the parish will feel the love of Jesus in a personal way. I feel so blessed to be here and want to thank the whole parish for the happiness which continues to surprise me.

I'm also grateful for my life in Sacred Heart School where I am continually surprised by joy. Going into the assembly hall at lunchtime one day I was mobbed by children shouting my name and showing me their Christmas jumpers, wondering why I wasn't wearing one! And what can you do when a little child hugs your legs!

The heart is warmed by the Nativity play, the enthusiasm of the teachers and the pride of parents; the children's carol singing in our Church and Lila bringing presence and dignity to the role of the Archangel Gabriel and a depth that is not easily achieved.

My thoughts of course go back to other lovely Christmas times - at home,  in Shankill - and I treasure these memories and hold them with gratitude in my heart. 

I don't look for renewal because I know we are constantly being renewed,  that we are constantly renewing each other when we come together and most of the time we go out from the church with smiles on our faces, without having to be told to smile!

So may Christmas bring solace to our suffering,  hope to our struggle,  comfort to our grief, peace and some measure of simple happiness. May we feel the glow of God's own smile upon us.

Eamonn Monson sac

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