The annual return of Christmas is eagerly awaited by millions of people the world over.
It is a time of excitement and anticipation for
the younger, a time of preparation and of remembering for the older, and
a time of shared expectation and hope for everyone who participates in
In a real sense, the preparation and the anticipation are
part of the Season of Advent which immediately precedes and builds up
the Christmas experience in our hearts and minds.
Advent is a God–given
opportunity to get ready for Christmas by making straight the way of the
Lord in the company of John the Baptizer, the last of the prophets, and
of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
Building Christmas up in this way is very important. And if we have
not done it this year, it is good to think of doing it and doing it
early next year.
Time after time,
people tell me that somehow Christmas just stole up on them, that they
were worn down by the time it arrived and that they wished they had
slowed the pace a little bit earlier and been more organized in advance.
Organization and excitement are not ready companions, as well we know.
Being organized looks as if sparkle and spontaneity have gone out of the
But in the things of God, preparation is always a good idea. We
tend to get more out of something for which we prepare in the longer
term. We tend to have more time to look around and think of others if we
prepare, as we prepare.
Christmas is such a time because the Christmas story is the bedrock
of salvation. In Jesus Christ we are constantly found again in our
lostness by God, year after year.
We are reunited with what it is to be a child and to be a child of God.
Simplicity and need draw us in a direction that we ought not to neglect:
the direction of connecting with the simplicity and need of others.
They may be the people in cities and townlands right across rural and
urban Ireland who struggle, often without conventional hope, to make
ends meet and who are homeless and loveless.
They may be people in
cities and wastelands across Europe and the Middle East and Africa whose
only hope of a future is to flee everything that once was theirs amidst
trafficking, the dismantling of their dignity and the care and worry
for those who remain dependent on them –
wherever they are – and that human instinct will not go away. They may
be the poor who are The Gospel.
Many of you would undoubtedly like to give something to help others
at this time.
If you can, I encourage you to do so and, however late and
however insufficiently organized you think you are, to make this your
preparation in the run–up to Christmas to welcome the Christ Child into
your heart and the stranger into your world.
Dublin and Glendalough