So this is Christmas. It’s upon us again in what we might all call the weirdest year of our lives. Truth is, it’s been a crappy year for a lot of people. Businesses hammered, families separated,
art and music locked down, houses of worship closed, people sick and dying and travel has basically been non existent.
It’s been horrible but that is 2020 for a lot of us. For us the year hadn’t finished sticking the boot in. In December we had two deaths in the family and two surgeries..you know, Murphy’s Law.. when you think it can’t get any worse… it does. However this time of year is always when I seem to reflect best and the arrival of the most beautiful Nativity Scene, made by a dear friend delighted me and made me think about this time of year.
The weird thing about the ‘Christmas Story’ that we see on cards, in town squares, children’s plays and under Christmas Trees is that mostly it is untrue…or at least inaccurate.
The idea of the nativity combines a bunch of stories, myths and ideas into one perfect beautiful scene while in reality there wasn’t much all that beautiful about it…but we like the illusion ( and I do like it because like everyone else, I like lovely things) better than the reality.
The Christmas story took place in a country occupied by an invading brutal force. An unmarried pregnant girl and her fiancé are forced to travel for census/ taxation purposes just before one of the worst cases of mass infanticide would take place.
When the baby finally arrives..(they said he was Immanuel, King of kings, the Saviour etc etc)….he is dropped in an animals’ feeding trough….makes you wonder doesn’t it?
2020 has been a horrible year…..2000 years ago, (give or take) it was also a horrible year. And there have been horrible years since. A pandemic isn’t the norm for sure, but years come and they go and there is no telling how good or bad they might be.
This year would have been much worse without the things we have learned. We are thankful for the support and love of family and friends globally, but this year has allowed us to stay home and get to know our neighbours and find a wonderful richness in the artistic community in Wexford. We have learned that medical workers, shop keepers , postmen and other, often overlooked services are truly essential. We have seen a rallying in communities and the heroes amongst us are often the ‘ordinary’ folk around us.
Some things go without saying…proud of my son who has climbed to the top of his game by his mid 30’s, my daughter for starting a new career in health care just as Covid hit. My grandkids for no particular reason except the joy of being their Pop. My wife for putting up with my very focused but annoying mind.
My old friend John Smith once told me that artists and those on the fringes of society often intuitively ‘feel’ the truth…he called such people the ‘nerve endings of society.’ Also, personally I’ve been lifted out of potential gloom by 71 year old Bruce Springsteen’s keen observations on life…by Cursed Murphy v’s The Resistance’ passionate wails for justice. Ian Doyle’s reminders of how dark life can be, the commitment to excellence of The Remedy Club, ( you can google all these artists and buy their music). The inspirational creativity of Emma Sherman’s needlework, Dan Comerford’s guitar building, Kylie’s kitchen endeavours, Ecke Weiland’s painting, Alexander Lee Buie’s exceptional art work, Yuval Noah Harari’s prophetic warnings of the terrifying possibilities of technology and my late sister’s ability to laugh at life. The commitment of local businesses like RED BOOKS in Wexford to support local writers like Dan Finn. The coexistence of joy and grief we find in the Irish wake. Hemingway’s Old Man Of the Sea and the exhausting struggle that is his working life. CS Lewis reminds us that there may well be someone out to get us in Screwtape Letters. Roald Dahl, Richard Rohr, Robert Kirk, John Smith, Jesus Christ and more all help me navigate life.
In the Christmas story, it still strikes me that the first visitors were shepherds. These guys knew things before anyone else. The dodgy, hard drinking, smelly, dirty, potty mouthed, rough, untrustworthy dwellers from the edges (The general social thinking on shepherds in that time) knew about good news before the politicians, the religious people, the rich, the high society tribe, the intellectuals and the do-gooders. Over the years it has often been those on the edge of society who have taught me my most sobering lessons.
I love that it is these men who tell everybody this good news. Perhaps in 2021 we need to listen harder to those on the edges because if we think good news just comes from preachers and those in power, maybe we still prefer the illusion more than the truth.
Make it as merry as you can, and a hopeful New year to you all..