Well, 2018 was a big year. We travelled all over the planet and found love, hate, joy, anger, unity, division, warmth and icy cold. No different to other years in some ways, but context is everything and 2018 brought me into sharper focus than other years…maybe it’s just getting older does that. Last week I spent time with family. It had been the worst kind of year for them…the worst kind of loss. Some of my friends in the USA had suffered a similar loss and wrote to me to offer sound advice.
During this time I heard the full horror of the story. The hopelessness and sense of loss was tangible and I saw the kind of tears that only old men can cry roll down cheeks. The story was soaked in pain, helplessness, terror and emptiness but as they told the saddest of stories, a memory would insert itself and the tale took another direction. There it was, ‘joy’ had her say right there! This story brought a smile to the room, then, back into the dark for more horror. The ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ continued for sometime, then an unrelated story brought laughter to every heart. We all glimpsed it. The light got in and somehow it let us see with some clarity for a moment. Then typical Irish sayings made the whole scenario seem laughable and ridiculous until we were all giggling in spite of the sadness that was still our constant companion in the room, because peace got a foot in the door and refused to leave until we all had a little taste.
I had watched from afar as my friends in the USA walked a similar road, but their counsel was perfect because they already knew that place and what was required for visitors.
So, as we head into Christmas, it is not lost on me that context is everything. A couple of thousand years ago, in a distant land that was occupied by an invading force with a deeply insecure ‘world’ leader. People longed for a big helping hand, a saviour, something bigger than their problems. It was a dark time, a violent time, an oppressive time and an uncertain time. They needed a big thing and yet the story tells us that a teenage peasant girl gave birth to a baby boy.
The one who would be hailed as the light of the world, the prince of peace, the way the truth and the life, came as something small, insignificant, helpless and easily mistaken as small and useless. It was (once more) not lost on me that in this story eventually a mother would walk the same road as my friends and family have in 2018.
It seemed to me that it was the small joys that became important. The hint of peace of mind and heart. The laughter that was found in the light. They had joined in with the tears of sorrow. Not overtaking the sadness or making it vanish but rather, easing it with small glimpses of hope and goodness. The sadness seemed bigger, but it couldn’t keep holding on to us like it wanted too. Peace would insist on being heard. Joy was going to have her say and the light made sure that the darkness became a foggy blur that we could squint through, rather than the total blindness that leaves us numb. It was the little things that helped us push on when the big things try to crush us.
I head into 2019 with the thought that just maybe, the peace and joy and light that we quote at this time of year is there for all of us. It’s not big, it’s not blinding and it’s not always in our face.
It shows up when the big hurts come and the large disappointments batter us. It’s small and can almost be overlooked, but it is what keeps the darkness lit, what reminds us of the good during the bad and the joy that curls our lips upward when the grimace of pain thinks it has won.
Like everything else this year, I guess I already knew this, and ancient wisdom has
told us that it is dark and sad out there, however,
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’.
So here’s to the little things that endure for each of us....
Merry Christmas and a Happy 2019 to you all.