Christmas time a kaleidoscope of wondering, asking, questioning
Christmas is over and almost forgotten about for another year. Cycling to work on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, I spotted a Christmas tree in a window. I immediately experienced a flashback.
I remember as a child the pure sadness of the Christmas tree coming down on January 6. I can clearly remember standing in front of it and pleading that it be kept up another few days. But I also knew there was no point. Christmas was over and even as a child I knew any sort of pretence was pointless. The tree came down , back to school the next day and we got on with our lives.
Since the death of my father in 2004 there have been times when it's not been easy, indeed, there were two or three dodgy Christmases but it's much better now and I enjoy the day and what follows.
Over the Christmas season I came across a piece written by Fr Brendan Hoban, a priest in the diocese of Killala. He writes a weekly column in the Western People. This paragraph really resonated with me. 'Christmas is a strange time. It has a funny way of creating an empty space around us. Despite the hype, Christmas has a way of stripping our lives down to the essentials. In the midst of Christmas cheer, a small thin voice insists on posing a series of difficult questions: what does it all mean? Am I happy? What is my life for? How can I satisfy that itch within me? How can I satisfy that part of me that nothing seems to satisfy? How can I explain the wonder that I sometimes sense is at the heart of life? And we find ourselves putting our lives under a microscope. Wondering.'
I came up with a phrase this year when people asked me how Christmas was. I replied: 'I was managing the emotional landmine that Christmas is.' It was meant as a joke, half serious, half real. Early on Christmas morning, sometime around 07.00 I went for a walk with my dog in the local park. There was no one in the park, just Tess and I and still I could feel Christmas in my bones. Everything looked and smelled differently. I was back thinking about my parents and the work they put into Christmas. They did everything for us, no matter how they felt inside.
Probably facetiously I say and think that Christmas is not the same without children but when I think about it, that makes no great sense. I think it has more to do with the innocence of children compared to the world of adulthood.
Anytime we talk about Christmas there is always the shadowy side of the feast expressed. We see and hear tv and radio ads asking us to watch out for those who may be vulnerable or alone. And those ads stay with us. They are effective. But the following incident hit me hard when I heard it and it so happens I was told it on the feast of the Epiphany.
A priest was standing at the back of the church greeting the people as they left after Christmas Mass. He was saying hello, shaking hands and wishing people seasons' greetings. A woman came to him and said: "I have never felt so lonely." He intended talking to her but before he got a chance she had disappeared. He later said to someone that it had really hit him.
Maybe in some extraordinary way Christmas is a kaleidoscope of our lives. Wondering, asking, questioning. Happy new year. And on we go.