It is mid-November as I write this article, but my mind has fast-tracked to December, not because of the close of this year which has whizzed by, but because of Christmas.
I am a senior citizen so my thoughts are not about what to buy myself or what to do for Christmas, rather they go in slow motion (Senior citizen style) to the yesteryears when preparations began in November itself.
Those were the days of large families; we for example were 7 of us, with my mum, and one earning member, my dad. It’s a wonder how in those days the head of the family provided for the new clothes, shoes, accessories, gifts, decorations, the star, crib, Christmas tree and more especially as the ingredients for the “Kunswar” and meals for family and visitors on that day.
The days leading upto Christmas Eve were a bustle of assembling the star, setting up the crib, decorating the tree, putting up crepe-paper buntings and corrugated chinese lanterns at the door. All this was done with much needed and willing help from family and neighbours, while Jim Reeves sang in the background about ‘Silver Bells’ and feeling of Christmas. Of course by 24th December night, nerve would be quite frayed in this endeavor for a “Happy Christmas”.
Times have changed, families have shrunk, children have migrated, and elders have passed away. With the stress of both parents working (to bring up one child or two), the option is on-line shopping. Very attractive stars, cribs with built-in statues, twinkling lights, unique & colourful foil decorations beckon from every side. Christmas cards were sent by sea-mail 3 months in advance, being economical. Mobiles are doing it for us in seconds, both with seriousness and humour.
This is all very well, but these ‘externals’ block out the reality of the birth of Jesus. Though we remember it as a ‘joyful mystery’, it was a time of hardship and discomfort for St. Joseph and Mother Mary who was carrying Jesus full term. Obedient to the Roman law for a census, they travelled to Bethlehem on a donkey. The journey was slow and tiring with much needed breaks for each of them.
The able-bodied travellers moved ahead and found room in the inns, whereas our Saviour’s parents had to settle for a stable. It makes me wonder about their sanitary needs. How did they manage? Compare it to the modern day luxury of Pampers, stayfree and other paraphernalia that surround a mother and child.
Mother Mary was told by Angel Gabriel that the child born to her would be “Great and rightly called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the Kingdom of David… and his reign shall have no end’ (Lk 1: 32-33). Questions and doubts must have raced through her mind, when she entered the stable. But Mary’s password was YES. She said a YES of faith, of obedience, of acceptance. Help came in the form of Shepherds, who I believe, took them to a warm dwelling, hot bath & nourishing food.
We need to keep in mind this reality in our celebrations and guide our children in the truth of this event. There are families that face hardships and wants – not just at Christmas. Like the Shepherds there are many in our Parish who reach out, bringing relief and comfort to them. May our children learn by example.
May your home be filled with a CHRISTMAS JOY that continues in the days ahead