‘Twas the night before Christmas…

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‘Twas the night before Christmas… 

So begins the first line of the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore which has delighted generations of children and adults since it was first published in December 1823.  I still can’t hear the poem even today, without feeling that sense of excitment and anticipation I felt as a child waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. While I am not waiting for a visit from Santa anymore, a sense of anticipation still fills my heart each Christmas Eve. It is my favourite part of the Christmas season – that magical sense of anticipation when all the presents lie under the twinkling tree, the cupboards are stocked, the turkey is wedged into the fridge waiting to become the centre-piece of the table tomorrow, the Christmas candle is lighting in the front window (an Irish tradition, serving as a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph who sought shelter in vain on that first Christmas Eve) and we walk home from Midnight Mass, our breaths visible in the cold, crisp, night air.

While I am far away from home this year and I still miss my mother very much, I am also aware how lucky I am to have had this as my Christmas experience for so many years. I know it is not everyone’s experience. For the homeless, the sick, the lonely, the bereaved, Christmas is a sad, lonely time, which is why I am so taken with the words of the African-American theologian and philosopher, Howard Thurman about the true meaning of Christmas:

When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart.

Freed of its consumerist and materialistic surroundings, Christmas can become an opportunity for welcoming  the message of hope for us that comes from the mystery of Christ’s birth. And if the story of the Nativity is not your personal belief, Thurman’s message can still be one that inspires us to reach out in human solidarity to those in need.

Whatever your personal belief, Christmas is a universal celebration, a feast of love and friendship. So today on this Christmas Eve, I want to take the time to celebrate the friendship and support I have found with you, my loyal, regular readers, many of whom, have become dear friends, and wish you all a peaceful, happy and joy-filled Christmas.  And when all our celebrations are done, let’s work together, to be a light in the darkness for those who need it, to heal the broken, to reach out to others, and above all to make music in our hearts.

Christmas is not a time nor season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas ~ Calvin Coolidge

Merry Christmas!