White Christmas – 2010

As the week wore on, it became clear that there could be only one topic for this sermon – snow.  We have sung “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”, and at last we’ve had one. And maybe now we wish that it had remained in the land of dreams..

Snow is an essential component of our Christmas scenes – even though it’s a rare thing in Bethlehem. Our cards and carols are full of glistening whiteness, which we try to reproduce with tinsel on trees, and artificial sprays on windows and royal icing on cakes. This year we have the real thing, turning 21st century Dublin into Dickens’s London, or something out of a Hollywood movie.

Snow is, of course, very beautiful. I drove out to Ashbourne to collect the turkey, and the countryside was so lovely – bright blue sky, golden sun (in my eyes), all white with the black trunks of bare trees. It’s also a nuisance – dangerous roads, trudging through muck and slush on slippy footpaths. Everything made just a bit more difficult, especially for those travelling. Hard on the poor, hard on the elderly. We become aware of how much we depend on each other, and on the men who grit the roads, and on the truck-drivers who keep the garages and shops supplied. And we look forward to the thaw and easier ways.

And yet the snow remains beautiful – reflecting so much light, turning midnight into an eerie noon. Moonlight on snow, cold and bright, changing the everyday into something spectacular. This is what our world is like, difficult, dangerous, laborious, where we depend on each other to survive, and yet full of astounding loveliness and capable of transformation. And this is the world into which the Son of God was born. Difficult, hard – yet capable of reflecting the light of the Creator. The true light that enlightens everyman was coming into the world, to restore in us the image of God.

The snow has another effect – it makes things quieter. And because it’s cold and dangerous, it encourages us to stay home, pull the curtains, light the fire, and pour the tea. It turns our gaze inward – it reminds us of the value of interior things. These last days before Christmas are frantic, with shopping and sending and visting and cooking and cleaning and preparing – time perhaps to take a snow day into stillness and contemplation. One of St Luke’s nicest phrases tells us that “Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart”. Minding a newborn is an anxious time – so much feeding, cleaning, dressing – exhausting; yet there are moments, are there not, when the child is at last full, content and drowsy, and mother can sit in stillness and listen to her child’s heart beating on her breast. A time to treasure and to ponder; Mary treasures the still moment, and in her child’s heartbeat perceives the pulse at the centre of the universe, the mystery of the living God. May we find some peace this Christmas to treasure and ponder and perceive the nearness of God with us, Emmanuel.

 

The darkest midnight in December
Nor snow, nor hail, nor winter storm
Shall hinder us for to remember
The Babe who on this night was born.
With shepherds we are come to see
This lovely infant’s glorious charms;
Born of a maid, as the prophet said,
The God of Love in Mary’s arms.
 
No earthly gifts can we present him,
No gold or myrrh or odours sweet;
But if with hearts we can content him,
We humbly lay them at his feet.
It was pure love that from above
Brought him to save us from all harms;
So let us sing and welcome him,
The God of Love in Mary’s arms.
Wexford carol, 17th cent.
 

NOLLAIG SHONA

AGUS ATHBHLIAIN

FAOI MHAISE

DAOIBH

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