Friday, 24 December 2010

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

The Carmelite Community wish you all a Happy and Holy Christmas and many joys and blessings for the coming year

A Reflection for Christmas
We are a people of memory, and in the darkness of the night we have gathered to celebrate not just a memory but also an ongoing reality. Our celebration is very familiar. We have sung carols; we have made our crib and have placed the Christ child in the embrace of the manger. We have undertaken those little rituals particular to our own families. The drink left out for Father Christmas that my father always used to insist was a good tot of whisky! The slippers left on the hearth. Our senses over the last weeks have been assailed with familiar sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. We have gathered in our families and communities to feast and express our love for one another and if you’re anything like my family you will probably have a row as well. We have expended a lot of energy deciding whether Granddad would mind another set of hankies, and mum some perfume from the body shop, or queuing for the ‘must have’ toy of the moment. But in the midst of this frantic activity we have gathered to connect with the real reason for our feasting and gift giving. So relax, unwind, forget about the turkey and how long it will take to cook and immerse yourself in the total and passionate love that God has for you. For today we celebrate a concrete, consuming and enduring love

I can clearly remember the first time I was allowed to go to Midnight Mass. I was about 7 or 8, and to stay up that late for me was a great adventure. We came here to the Friars.  It was a very cold night and we walked to the friary and our breaths made a fog in the night air. We heard the readings and sung the carols that we have sung and proclaimed today. That Christmas night was magical for me because when we came out of the church the landscape had been totally transformed. During Mass the countryside had been covered with a thick blanket of snow. As I rekindle that memory I realise that there is a lesson for us to learn here. Forget the familiar but think of what this feast really means. God breaks into our human story in a new and vibrant way. God becomes a human being. Not born in grandeur, but in a stable. Not warmed by a fine blanket, but by straw and the breath of cattle. When Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus and gives birth to him in Bethlehem the whole landscape of our future is changed. This is our story; it impacts on each one of us. And this, my friends, is the real message of Christmas and it is not comfortable, but challenging. God becomes human, he has our flesh, he is bones and blood and muscle and sinew. Why? Why did God find it necessary to do such a reckless thing? Look at the crib. There in the manger we begin to understand. God is revealed to us by coming in the lowliest of possible places.

The Good News of Christmas is here to bring us light in the midst of any darkness, poverty, rejection, emptiness, sinfulness we experience. By reminding us of where and how God comes, the Good News is also a revelation of who we are. We are the people who walk in darkness. We are people who experience parts of our lives as dry and unwelcoming as that hay. We are people who, on our own, not only fail to know and understand; we are capable of tremendous infidelity and stubborn independence.

We get our word ‘manger’ from the Latin root, which means simply ‘to eat’. Jesus comes, into the greatest place of our poverty, not only to be with us but to nourish us. The manger can be the place we go this Christmas to be fed with the acceptance, love and peace that we need. There is no place of darkness in which we need ever feel alone. There is no situation, no loss, or tragedy that need ever leave us empty. There is no sin, no matter how selfish that need ever leave us apart from God’s love.

We are living in times of uncertainty, our finances are uncertain, our job stability is uncertain, the ability of our young people to continue in education is uncertain. Our weather is very uncertain! We are now living life without certainties but some remain. In these times of bleak headlines, when our news updates seem to be but litanies of hopelessness, we are called to be different. We are called to be men and women of the good news, men and women of peace and reconciliation. We are called to be hopeful for our future and our Christian faith and the feast that we now celebrate give us the means of our hope, but this hope carries with it a responsibility. God becomes a human being in order that we might know what it means to be really human. God is with his people. He is Emmanuel. Jesus becomes human in order that we may know that we are precious in the eyes of God, and made in his image and likeness.

The attitudes of Jesus are to be our attitudes. This means that when people are isolated we must seek them out and include them in our community. When people are sick and in pain we must accompany them. When people lead lives of violence we must resist, not with a more ferocious violence, but with peace. The way of Jesus is a way of peace, a way of relationship. When God is most powerful in history it is when he is most vulnerable – the crib and the cross. If we want to celebrate this feast well let our hearts be changed by God’s love for us. What a gift this would be for our world. We would see one another with new eyes. The news of Great joy, that God loves his people passionately and intimately would be visible on our faces and in the way that we relate with one another. God is not a distant lover. God has taken the reckless step of loving us whom he has created and this love is ours for the taking. It is pure gift, undeserved and freely given by a generous lover. This is the cause of our joy. May Christ be born in each one of us this day. And may we all have a happy, holy and peace filled Christmas

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