Christmas Eve 2017

Here in the monastery we are still surrounded by the plainness of Advent. There are flowers waiting to go into the oratory, crib figures to be unpacked, cards to be arranged on window ledges — but not yet. There is a tree in the calefactory, but it stands bare and undecorated. This plainness, this deliberate expectancy, is, for us, an essential part of Christmas. When at last we begin to celebrate the Nativity, we do so not just for the Octave but for all twelve days, culminating in Epiphany (which regular readers will know I regard as the great feast of Christmas). The contrast, the sudden explosion of light and warmth into the darkness of midwinter, is a good analogy for the mystery of the Incarnation.

Today’s responsory at Lauds says, ‘Tomorrow the sins of the whole world will be washed away.’ We await a Saviour whose coming will change everything, including us. We may not be especially conscious of sin as we approach Christmas, but a moment’s reflection on all the sadness and division in the world should convince us of its reality. Christ comes to deal with sin, and He begins by dealing with sin in you and me. He is not ‘just’ the Saviour of the world; He is your Saviour and mine. Today, let’s try to find a moment or two to allow the wonder of that truth to sink in so that we can celebrate Christmas with gladness and rejoicing.

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Christmas Eve 2015 by Bro Duncan PBGV

BigSis said I could do today’s blog post because she has nothing left to say. The idea of her being at a loss for words tickles my sense of humour, but I’m old enough and wise enough to keep my own counsel. First rule of survival in community, as in any family, is: don’t say all you think. Or, more poetically, ‘A word let out of the cage cannot be whistled back again.’ (Horace). Good advice at any time, but especially at Christmas, when you human beans tend to eat and drink too much and are relentlessly sociable. That often leads to squabbles among the adults as well as the children, and you don’t want World War III to break out, do you? Which brings me to the serious stuff: Bro Duncan PBGV’s Christmas Wish-List.

  1. Peace on earth
  2. Goodwill to all, especially in Social Media
  3. Dentastix

Peace on earth is not pie-in-the-sky. It is what God intends, but human beans tend to get in the way. They go round lamenting the fact that the world isn’t peaceful, blaming everyone else for the sorry state of affairs but themselves. My advice is to go and look in the mirror and say to yourself, ‘Peace starts here, with me.’ You have twelve days in which to practise being kind and considerate and not letting your temper get the better of you. By the end of that time you will have acquired the habit of patience! When I’m rattled, I go to my basket; or I ask to be let out for a walk round the garden; or I pretend to have a little sleep. Failing that, I just lie there, allowing it all to wash over me. Then, when the time is right, I show I have no hard feelings by going up to the enemy of the moment and looking at them with those large brown eyes of mine. Sympathy always makes friends of others, and it really isn’t all that difficult. Trust me, I’m a dog, I know.

Goodwill to all, especially in Social Media. Hmn. That’s a toughie. Human beans seem to think they can say what they like and it doesn’t matter how cruel or unjust it is. They are merely exercising their right to freedom of speech. But not all speech builds up, and holiday time seems to bring out the worst in them. There are lots of human beans who find Christmas difficult. They may have lost someone dear to them; they may be tired; they may be homesick. I’ve even known human beans in monasteries have a sad moment or two, being away from their families and all that. Remember you don’t have to give your opinion on everything, and you certainly don’t have to make jokes at others’ expense. Think about what we are celebrating: the coming of Christ into our world to be our Saviour. Human beans sometimes  forget that, so busy are they with all the preparations for Christmas Dinner and guests and stuff. (Especially stuff, but let’s not go there just now.)

Dentastix. I’ve heard there are some sad souls who think they should be awfully austere at Christmas because there are so many people in the world who are living in poverty. I’m not convinced. We should celebrate, and we should be generous. BigSis often quotes a Greek phrase which means ‘Nothing in excess’, so I expect I’ll be given some Dentastix but not a whole container-full. Suits me. I know They have done what They can to help others, and some of the Dentastix They bought for me will be going to poor doggies that have none. Share the joy, that’s my motto. Why not make it yours, too?

LittleSis has just read through this and wondered if I shouldn’t be ‘just a bit more explicitly religious’. I thought I was being religious, but let that pass. This afternoon They will set up the crib near the door of the monastery. There will be Mary and Joseph, an ox and a donkey and an empty crib. I shall keep watch beside it all evening and then, when They place the figure of Baby Jesus in it on Christmas morning, I shall lie there, lost in wonder, love and praise (though you might think I was just sleeping). You see, when Jesus came into the world to redeem you lot, everything changed. There was a new creation; and I’m part of it, just like you. Isn’t that reason for us all to rejoice?

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