Home' Aurora : Aurora November 2015 Contents 14
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mnnews.today/aurora-magazine
Majella Dennis shares a timely reflection.
I remember a night in mid-November last year,
when I s tood at my window and marvelled at
an incredible display of Christmas lights flashing
wildly on a house in the distance. My husband,
watching the psychedelic light show with me,
asked, "What do you think about people getting
ready for Christmas in November? " I shrugged
and gave a flippant reply, something like, "If it
makes them happy, then that's great."
Yet that shor t conversation really stuck with
me in the weeks that followed. I watched as
tinsel was wrapped around every pole in the
supermarket, heard the carols trilling happily
though the speakers in the marketplace, smiled
as my two-year-old pointed out every " twinkle
star" on the Christmas tree displays. I was
beginning to feel that sense of excitement, the
anticipation of the celebration that is to come.
Again this year I wonder, what is it that we are
all really celebrating? As a child, I looked forward
to the gifts, the feast, the wild and unruly games
of backyard cricket and the endless hours spent
in the pool. Nowadays, the joy of the season
is somewhat tempered by the strict budget for
presents, the almost military organisation and
delegation of Christmas lunch preparation, the
frustration over the relatives who 'disappear'
when it's time to wash the dishes. I see with my
adult eyes that Christmas is not really like the
glossy images on cards and pretty ads on T V,
but is a time of profound contradiction.
For so many families, Christmas serves to
highlight feelings of anxiety, stress, grief
Like the father who has been made redundant
twice this year, the family facing its first
Christmas without Mum, the parents whose
hear ts are breaking over the gif ts that will never
be opened by their angel baby, the "orphans"
who have no family nearby to celebrate with
on Christmas Day. There are so many people
in our midst for whom Christmas seems like a
season filled with loss, pain, financial hardship,
loneliness. As they watch the preparations
unfolding around them, Christmas can become
an incredibly isolating, marginalising experience.
Two thousand years ago, a six teen-year-old girl,
heavily pregnant, travelled many kilometres with
her fiancé to a city not their own to be counted
in a census. They arrived late, because she had
suffered greatly on the journey, in the heat of
the deser t riding on a donkey's back (not an
ideal mode of transpor tation for a woman
in the late stages of pregnancy!). They were
probably cranky, hungry, exhausted, and af ter
asking at every inn in the city and being turned
away, someone offered them a barn. With the
animals. And the dir t. Still − it was their
I cannot begin to imagine the terror and panic
inside the hear t of that young girl as she felt the
first stirrings of labour while lying in the stable
that night. Maybe she was relieved her baby
was finally on its way. Probably she was scared
as she gave bir th without any women around
to help her, without guidance or reassurance.
Definitely she would have been in pain like she
had never before experienced.
But then - the moment of the baby's arrival.
That final push into the world. The young
mother's exhaus tion and exquisite joy, seeing
that tiny, scrunched-up face, those little eyes
searching for her, looking into her own. That
moment, as close to the divine as any parent
will ever get...happened in the mids t of the
animals and the dir t.
When I think about this − the real reason
why two thousand years later I have bright
lights flashing manically through my window
in November − I am over whelmed by the
paradox of it all. That the parents of the one
who would save the world were turned away
by every inn in the city. That the purest, most
beautiful new life was brought into squalid
surroundings. That a king was born in a stable.
And yet it makes perfect sense. Christmas is the
season when we are able to remember joy in
the midst of our stresses and sorrows. When
the love of family overcomes our frustrations
and conflicts. When the beauty of giving to our
children causes us to forget the fact that we
have practically moved mountains to
Chris tmas, this 'silly season', is fundamentally a
celebration of the beautiful mess life always is.
So let's take the focus away from our per fect
table settings, glossy wrapping paper and
fabulous family photos and go back to where it
all began − that night, when God arrived in the
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world in the most unexpected and humblest
Let's remember that Christmas is not all
baubles and bows, lights and candy canes for
Let's remember the families with nothing, who
are grieving for loved ones now gone, those
who are feeling isolated and alone, and do what
we can for them. Let's reach out in love and
kindness to those whom we would normally let
pass us by.
And let us be grateful for what we have this
Christmas – not the pretty trees and baked
hams and endless gif ts – but each other. In
our joys and sorrows, brokenness and beauty,
darkness and light, we are reminders to one
other of the real 'Christmas spirit' − God's love
for this per fectly imperfect world.
Majella Dennis is a parishioner of St James’ at
Muswellbrook and a practising psychologist.
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