To some of us it’s a time to pause, to reflect, to stand in awe. But to the vast majority of us it’s the silly season: a time of over-eating, drinking, buying, selling, worrying, partying, beaching, and pressured family gatherings.
And don’t the silly season preachers love it; out of hibernation they come to herald their version of the good news – news that is best delivered away from pulpits and outside of Sundays.
And what a persuasive, well-packaged homily it is: a seductive narrative that draws so many in:
“CHRISTMAS IS A TIME FOR GIVING.”
(Sub text) And boy, have we got the very things your loved ones need.
“SPOIL THOSE YOU LOVE THIS CHRISTMAS; SHOW THEM HOW MUCH YOU CARE.”
(Sub text) Buy, buy, buy, and when you think you’ve finished … c’mon, buy some more!
So the pressure to spend is on. We walk kilometres, zig-zagging in and out of stores; standing toe-to-toe with fellow shoppers competing for the best deals – and the quickest way out. All the while lamenting the pace of it all, oblivious to what we’ve become: manic consumers.
And how this millstone of consumerism weighs us down leaving us tired, hassled and empty: presents replacing presence; the secular bullying the sacred.
As for that birthday infant, the One whose name we daren’t mention lest we cause offense; well, he tends to remain tucked-away somewhere in the basement of our collective hearts: crying, smiling; longing to be cuddled and loved and fed … Happy Holidays, anyway.
Yet it is this nameless One, this silenced One, who gives voice to the longings of those of us who cannot compete in a world that says, keep-up, or else: the frail, the lonely, the infirm, the strange.
And as powerful and as noisy as the silly season preachers and Happy Holidays Grinch are, the Christmas child can still be heard whispering gently, persistently: “I-am-with-you: tiny, unassuming; lying at your feet.”
It is a whisper that alerts us to the beauty and majesty of our humanity; exhorting us to delight in those who cannot keep-up.
It is to them to whom Christmas belongs.
Peter Day is a Catholic Priest in Canberra.