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With all the rushing and racing of the Christmas Day and week upon us and most people in full throttle at the moment with Christmas week happening now, it is easy to get lost in all of the festivities, shopping, parties, cooking, eating, drinking and gift giving.

There’s so much to do and so little time to do it. Many of us I am afraid have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and what it really represents and what we should believe it to be. Christmas is really about the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Jesus represents real love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion towards each of us and our fellow human beings on this journey called life.

I believe through my personal faith that we are all God’s children and we should treat each other as we ourselves would want and like to be treated and loved. It is so important because of that belief and especially at this time of the year to think of the less fortunate and the most needy and vulnerable in our communities and our world, especially our ever growing number of homeless people and children. We must be continually challenged by the circumstances and the place of our Savior’s birth on the edges of society. We must always remember those who may not have gifts under a Christmas tree or a warm house or a bed to wake up in, on Christmas morning or any morning or have no food or drink to have on that day or any day or are homeless or are facing another day of war or famine or drought.. God loves us so much and all he asks is that we show that same love, care, forgiveness, empathy, compassion and mercy to one another and everyone that we can help and support in some way. That is the real beautiful meaning of giving to others during the Christmas season and it helps us to realise that nothing is impossible as long as we believe in God and in one another.

While for so many people the Christmas season is about materialism and commercialism and keeping up with a hectic schedule, we should all try to where possible now and then especially during this time of the Coronavirus to slow things down and take some time out to not only appreciate, focus and meditate on the true meaning of Christmas but also to embrace the true spirit of Christmas. Emotionally this is a difficult time of the year for so many people and families in our midst and on the edges of our communities and our world. Also the stress of the Christmas season if one is not careful builds upon stress to destroy the holiday cheer of many. The underlying problem for so many people and indeed young people is that they focus all their energy on what they do not have rather than embracing what they do have and that for me is what the Christmas spirit is all about focusing on what you have within you and around you and treating others the way you would like to be treated, cared for and loved.

The true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ. The Christ child is a symbol of love, light, hope, compassion, mercy and peace that makes this such a joyful season for true believers. However, even among the believers, there are some for which this message is not enough to overcome the depression, anger and stress of the season and of life. That is why it is so important to embrace the true meaning of Christmas, you need to reach down within yourself into your hearts core to your soul to find the spirit of Christmas. In order to embrace the true Christmas spirit you must be willing to give. Give of yourself, your time, your forgiveness, your prayers, your actions, your acceptance, your compassion, your mercy and your love, and give of your worldly possessions. Do not think of the gifts you give to others as an obligation or duty, but think of it as a symbol of your love for them. While no gift can accurately reflect the love we feel for those who are near and dear to us, we can show them that they matter by spending time and thought to create or select a gift with meaning or give what is most precious of all the gift of our time and presence.

Embracing the spirit of Christmas also means giving to those beyond our immediate sphere as well, especially those most in need in our communities and in our world. Obviously it is easy to throw some money in a charity collection box or envelope, and that is certainly worth doing and most needed, but if your Christmas spirit needs a boost then perhaps you should try something more hands-on and volunteer and put yourself out there. Local churches, homeless shelters and organisations, schools, and charitable organisations can and do usually give you a list of opportunities to give of yourself, to volunteer and help out with their work and their needs in their help of our vulnerable brothers and sisters in need in our communities and world at this time. Embrace the spirit of Christmas and find the true meaning of the season to bring more joy and happiness into your life and the lives of people in need both locally and globally.

This Christmas if you can and if you believe, mend a quarrel, seek out a forgotten friend, dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a love or forgiveness letter. Share some treasure or gift. Give a soft answer. Call. Text. Email. Talk. Post. Encourage youth and support our elderly. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Share. Show mercy. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Flout jealousy, gossip and bullying. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a lot. Be confident. Be against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Go to church. Pray and meditate. Walk. Run. Climb. Swim. Welcome a stranger. Feed the Hungry. Give shelter. Visit the sick. Gladden the heart of a child or elderly person. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Give Love. Speak your love. Speak it again and again and be a doer be. Believe.

The Door of the Inn of Our Hearts
Sometimes when I am visiting my local church over the Christmas season and look and pray at our crib, I often get distracted from my prayers and wonder if the owners of the Inn ever realised who they turned away that Christmas Eve night. I wonder if a few decades down the line, they realized that it was Jesus’ mother, Mary who had come to the door and that they didn’t give her a room. They instead gave her a stable or a cave on the edges of their community, their society. At least they tried and were moved in some way to do something.

Now, if this was just a story about owners of an Inn in Bethlehem who missed a chance to open the doors to Jesus,centuries upon centuries ago, I wouldn’t be writing about it now. But this isn’t about what the owners of an Inn did. It’s about what God did, and what God still does this very day and this Christmas time and always. And it’s about what we, me and you, do next. You see Jesus still comes into this world, our world and our lives today and each day. It didn’t just happen once, it happens all the time, each and everyday. Jesus knocks at the doors of our hearts all the time, and we are asked if there is room in the inn of our hearts. And sometimes we look out, and we don’t really like what we see, or we don’t like what it would mean to let Jesus in, and we close the door and say: “There’s no place for you here in the Inn of my heart”. But sometimes, even when we don’t really want to, even when we’re not sure we want to open that door up, we do anyway. And that matters. Because Christmas may be about the story that we read or hear at mass if we go or went to mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning. But that story teaches us about more than just an event that happened centuries ago. It teaches us about opening ourselves up to what Jesus is trying to do in us in this world this very day and everyday if we but let him. And it’s about telling Jesus that, even if we don’t know what it means yet, there is room, for him in our hearts and our lives, and we want to be part of what he is doing and we want him to lead us and guide us in our living with our fellow human beings on this often difficult journey called life.

There’s a good chance that if you go or did go to mass at Christmas time, some part of you wants to be a part of that journey with Jesus leading us and guiding us. Some part of you wants to be a part of love made real, of God being active in our world, of a world that can change. That can change hate into love, war into peace, injustice into justice, abandoned into acceptance, illness into good health, orphaned into family, homeless into housed and cared for, unforgivable into forgiven. Some part of you wants to be a part of some type of Christmas story. Maybe not the one that’s written in the Gospels with the shepherds and the manger and the wise men, but a part of the Christmas story, nonetheless.

I believe that God is still active in this world, and God is still writing the Christmas story. God is still writing the story of what happened when Christ came into this world as the Prince of Peace, and what happened next. And you can be a part of that story. The question is, do you want to be the inn that closed its doors. Or do you want to be something else. I want to be the one who doesn’t close the doors to my heart when God is about to do something new, but the one who hears about it, and comes running. When God works in this world, I want to be a part of that story. I want to be the everyday thing, that becomes holy, not because of who I am, but because of who Christ is. I want to be a part of the story. I believe I can be. And I also believe so can you. And so can we all if we just put our faith out there and believe in the goodness of one another and try to treat one another the way you yourself would like to be treated and loved. As usual a story from my Nana Scully’s prayer book might help.

Wally and the Christmas Play
What to do with Wally? Wally was an awkward and shy child who belonged to the church children’s club. It was time to hand out roles for the Christmas play, but what role should the teacher give Wally? She decided on the inn-keeper. It was an important role, but required Wally only to shake his head and say one line “Sorry, we’ve no room.” Wally grinned from ear to ear when he learned of his important role and he couldn’t wait for the big night. It arrived soon enough, and the play was proceeding according to plan. Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem and come to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked on the door and it opened to Wally. “Please sir, do you have a room we could take?” asked Joseph. Wally shook his head and replied. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room”. Now the boy playing Joseph was a particularly confident child, and while the script called for him and Mary to turn away at this point, Joseph decided to exercise some dramatic license. “But sir” he said to the innkeeper, “My wife is about to have her baby and we need somewhere to stay. Couldn’t you find us a room.” Wally’s face went white – this was not planned for! – and he paused for a moment before repeating his line. “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.” “But sir” replied Joseph, “We’ve traveled such a long way and we’ve nowhere else to go and my wife is very tired. Surely you can find us somewhere.” Wally bowed his head, shook it sadly and said, “I’m sorry, we’ve no room.” Forlornly Joseph and Mary started walking away. Wally, now fully into his role, felt ashamed and saddened. A tear trickled down his cheek. Then his voice was heard calling out. “Wait! Please come back. You can have my room.” It may not have been according to script, but at that moment Wally gave perfect expression to the Christmas story. Is the door of the Inn of your heart open or closed this Christmas?

Thought for the week
As your thought for this Christmas week and the week leading up to another new year, remember it’s sometimes easy to forget that that baby born that night grew up to become an adult. And when he did, and he was asked what God wants us to do with our lives, he answered this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, open the door, open your heart, and let the Holy Spirit of Jesus in with all his challenges. If Christmas as I believe is about the incarnation of God, and this is what God incarnate saw fit to tell us, then this is the ultimate Christmas message.

When the tree is put away, when Christmas dinner has been eaten, when the nativity sets go back into their boxes, these things remain. And the ultimate test of how well we have celebrated Christmas this year will not be in what was under the tree or anything like that. It will be in how well we opened our hearts to one another, to our loved ones, to our neighbours, to the homeless, to those in need and who are vulnerable in our communities and our world, and how we let that Christmas message in. May it be so this Christmas, and always and remember to “give” in a Christ-like manner. After all, he is the reason for the season and the true “Christmas spirit”.

Have a very blessed, peaceful and loving Christmas week and new year celebrations and know that this Christmas I am praying for everyone who reads my column and asking God for the gift of peace and love for each and every one of you and all your family and friends. I ask for this gift for everyone in the world, rich and the poor. It’s a gift that only takes a moment and cannot be bought. No money in the world can buy this gift. It’s a gift we can give freely to everyone. Much blessings to everyone in this paper and to you the reader, your loved ones and your family this Christmas, this New Year and always.

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