Sunday thoughts: December 2020

By Monsignor John Devine

When I was a child, I thought that Christmas would never come. And when it came it was over too quickly. When bedtime came on Christmas Day, I was already mourning its loss because it would be another year until the next Christmas. The decorations came down on Twelfth Night, 6 January, and were put away; a final confirmation that it was all over. In our house, the Christmas decorations lived in a large suitcase, consigned to the top shelf of a dark cupboard. It was like a burial.

For a child, and indeed any young person, life is linear – a straight line into an unknown future. Tomorrow can’t come quickly enough. But as we grow older, time speeds up. Days, weeks and months come round again with increasing frequency – spring, summer, autumn, winter. They come around so fast that we’re not ready for them. What we longed for when young now comes too quickly. We want to slow things down. I get the year wrong when writing cheques. I’m scarcely used to being 71 when my 72nd birthday comes along. And then I say, ‘I can’t believe it’s Christmas already’. Life takes on the pattern of a recurring cycle and the Church’s year, the Liturgical Cycle, becomes a continuous loop.

But is the Liturgical year a circle? Perhaps it’s more of a spiral. To describe it as a circle suggests the same recurring annual events replicate themselves. But each year is different. I’m different. On Christmas Day I look back on previous Christmases. Those we love may have died. New members of the family may have been born. I may have moved house. This year, Covid-19 has altered all our plans. But the message of Christmas never changes. Emmanuel, God is with us.