We in Reality don’t want to downsize Christmas this year, no matter what the media blasts at us. Our gospel story is too rich and full of comfort to remain hidden in these dark days. Fr David our designer gives us a lovely cover of a smiling child inviting us to share the life of the world. Professor Brian Cosgrove introduces us a collection of Christmas poems with enlightening comments. Some of them, like Hardy’s “Oxen” or Betjeman’s “Christmas” may be familiar, but it is possible you have never noticed before the Christmas message of the popular song “Scarlet Ribbons”. Some of the most stirring Christmas music is in the first part of Handel’s Messiah. The concert halls may be closed this year and the choral societies silent so why not dig out a good recording of the Messiah (you can even get it on YouTube) and share it with family and friends. Fr Paul Kenny, who for many years wrote the programme notes for the Dublin Messiah, helps us discover some of its hidden depths.
In our regular liturgy slot, Maria Hall reminds us that, especially at Christmas time, “Evangelisation is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity; she exists in order to evangelise.” How will we manage this year with limited congregations, and perhaps even limited access to the church building? Maria offers us some suggestions – decorations, the crib, religious cards, the music. Maria reminds us that “Christmas congregations are unique in their mix of ages and faith experience and being inclusive is a challenge but also a unique opportunity to reach out to those for whom Christmas is only a yearly tradition.”
John Scally takes into to the dark days midwinter and reminds us how deeply the message of Christmas is woven into our Celtic past. Our oldest Irish monument takes on its deepest meaning on the day in which the Advent liturgy sings the O Oriens antiphon: “O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Colm Meaney takes us from the cool and rainy Irish December to the great Filipino Advent, with its Missa del Gallo – the Mass of Cockcrow or the Aguinaldo.
Our regular Trocaire page reminds us that COVID-19 has devastated the Third World even more than it has touched us. Lockdowns and restrictions may not be pleasant, but they can bring desperately poor people over the edge into even more extreme poverty. You might remember Trocaire’s annual Christmas gift scheme which includes topical items as quarantine care kits, soap and trees. As Santa Clause says in that great Christmas classic, Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”