Friday, December 28, 2018

Nollag Shona Daoibhse agus Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise

Nollag Shona Daoibhse agus Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise

I like Christmas. I always have. To be clear I don’t like the mad stressed out state that some people are driven to as the commercial Gods pursue profit no matter what the cost is for working people. Or the poor. Or the rest of us. I don’t like the increasing secular nature of the holiday. I am offended when Christ is taken out off Christ-Mas. I detest Xmas. 

I like the Christmas story. Yes it has more holes in it than a colander but we shouldn’t let facts get in the way of a good story. Christmas is a morality tale.  We are all familiar with it. A poor couple, the woman Mary heavily pregnant and her husband Joseph a carpenter, making their way home for the census. They have no where to stay for the night. They end up in a stable in Bethlehem. After being denied accommodation at an inn they are directed for shelter to where animals are bedded down for the night.

I was in Bethlehem once. The stable where It is said Mary and Joseph took shelter, is actually a cave. When I was there Bethlehem was occupied by Israeli soldiers. At the time Joseph and Mary were there Bethlehem was also under military occupation. At that time the soldiers were Romans.  

So that is where Jesus was born. Not in a palace. Not in a huge mansion. Not even in a house. Nope. In a stable. A refugee. Not the blue eyed blond infant so beloved of western nativity scenes. More likely a dark eyed dark skinned baby like those little children we see on our television screens in troubled parts of the Middle East, in refugee camps or other parts of the developing world. The first humans to visit them were shepherds. Other poor people herding sheep on rocky hillsides. Oh and the three wise men. They called as well. Following a star in the sky they came to the stable. The way wise men do. 

Poor Mary and Joseph. The Jewish people were waiting for a saviour to free them from Roman rule. Their baby was barely born and he was being proclaimed as The Saviour.  The Christ. So they had to leave the stable and flee for fear the Romans would kill their baby. On the run with only a donkey for transport. The rest is history. But it’s a history which lives to this day. 

The baby born in a stable spoke truth to power. He raged against the machine. His message was about love. He became a preacher, a teacher. His teaching were seen as a threat to the status quo. So he was executed by the system. Crucified. I don’t like that part of the story. But I do like the first part. The simplicity of it. It’s durability. It’s relevance today.

I like the customs associated with Christmas. Especially in Ireland. I especially like to light a little light in the window to guide poor travellers. I like the story of how the donkey - that most noble lowly animal- got a cross on its back because it carried Jesus. I love holly with bright red berries. I like carols. In Latin and Irish. In English also. Oiche Ciúin sung by the late Geordie Shannon’s choir in Long Kesh on Christmas Eve has its own acoustic. Even now in my musical memory. 

I also like Santa Claus. Daddy Christmas. Daidí na Nollag. Not the portly guy in the Coca Cola advert. No. I like the real thing. I like how little children are in awe of him. How they write him letters. How he makes his way down the chimney, how Rudolf, one of his reindeers, had a red nose. How they pull his sled through the skies. 

One Christmas one of the little people in my life was perched on Daidí na Nollag’s knee. We were  in Conway Mill. 

“What do you want for Christmas little girl?” He asked.

“A lap top”. She replied hopefully.

“Do you think I’m made of money” He chortled “Ho Ho Ho”. 

I like that. 

I like how we wish each other a happy Christmas. How we give and receive presents. So long as we don’t go over the top. In giving. Or in anticipation of receiving. I don’t like how Christmas can be a lonely place for some people. How the loneliness in their lives can come into even sharper relief. 

If you are homeless, or estranged from your family or friends. If you are recently bereaved. In trouble. Worried. Suffering from addiction. Sick.  If you have no money. Or not enough money. Christmas can be a drag. An unwelcome period of further isolation and desolation. Of quiet desperation.

Unless someone reaches out to you. With a kind word. With a wee bit of their time.  A smile. An act of companionship. A wee gesture. An act of kindness. A wee present. A friendly action. A hug. So let’s have a great Christmas. Let’s make Christmas for everyone. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s not forget it’s about a little baby born in a stable.

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