There were things I missed this Christmas. Despite its consumption craziness, there is a warming of humanity through the rituals of seasonal gatherings, catching up, bright lights and widespread feasting, at least for the lucky.
From Christmas time, I try to hold Isaiah’s line that the ‘people that walked in darkness have seen a great light’. After 2020 - and into early 2021 - who would doubt that we so need ‘great light’? As years keep adding up, I have come to know that light glows for me in the repetitive hearing of the stories of God retold in the words and life of Jesus. A relationship – a friendship I dare hope - with Jesus paints pictures in my mind of a better God than any I would, or could have dreamed of. Kinder, more generous, more empowering. A God you couldn’t but be glad to know.
But what has lasted for me from Christmas 2020 are the gifts we discovered and risked exchanging, and might not have. About 36 years ago I heard theologian, Eamonn Bredin, say ‘the unexpressed dies’. Perhaps - to be honest - thankfully, for some of what we might express. But kind of tragic for the best and most achingly beautiful within us. Without the efforts of many to create our shared spaces, to craft an Advent Together experience, I know the light I can hold now would be dimmer. Others freely gifted the invitation and pathways to get up, move and dance with God, to look to and wonder at the stars, to still sing in the face of 2020 ‘it’s a wonderful world’ in a fog covered 15 acres, to share and hear just a ‘few words’ at Jesus’ birthday.
What shone and still shines most brightly is the freshness, the gentle beauty, of the insights each other person comes to through the living of their own unique life. Insights won from each life’s hard days, setbacks and glorious savourings and enthusiasms which allow the reign of God flicker through us. To be led and guided by different people each week is such a gift. So radical. No one on top, no hierarchy of gender, age, paper qualification. Only together, with each stepping up to create and shape new kinds of reverential space can we get nearer and discover the ‘great light’. That light that one friend recalled moving his dad to tears each Christmas midnight mass.
Our Christmas lights are boxed in the attic. But with my friend Jesus, I dare believe that the great light of Christmas stays born in the everyday commitment to create spaces where the beauty within each person and each and many, many communities is allowed its best, its rightful and its irreplaceable expression.