I have a book for children about the hymn Away in a Manger. The first part is set in the Holy Land with pictures of Joseph, Mary and Jesus arriving in Bethlehem. The second part is set in a modern context with scenes taken from modern life. In both cases we are reminded of the wonder of creation and the beauty of the world in which we are privileged to live, the Holy Family and ourselves. It is always good to pray for Jesus to be nearby, to keep children in his loving care and lead them to heaven to live with God there. Of course we have to do our part.
On Christmas day I called in the Glens but couldn’t stay for dinner because of restrictions. But as I passed by houses and spoke in a socially distanced tone of voice it struck me how different people’s experiences can be; change of job, recovery from sickness, sad bereavements, confinement, high spirits, growth in wisdom and knowledge, all against a background of wide seashore, bright blue sky, chilly breeze and periods of silence for awe and admiration, perhaps even wonder at the Creator of it all.
The colourful book takes it for granted that parents can create the right atmosphere for big and small to be attentive and prayerful as long as there is someone to lead and seize the opportunity. Pope Paul wrote about the gift of silence being one of the marks of the Holy Family. He said that we all can learn from Mary who took time to “ponder these things in her heart”. It’s good for the soul when a family can pray together. Prayerful reflectiveness is a good idea and Christmas teaches us that God is always ready to be at home with us. God is not just passing through – God is at home in our homes. The family of Nazareth is a model for us in the sense that every home can become a place for encountering Jesus, even the most disorganised home, and that’s most of the homes I know!
In a happy home pretences are left behind, shoes are left in the wrong place, mammy’s hair is out of place, and dirty dishes wait for a washing, nevertheless by being at home in Nazareth Jesus is showing all families that he can be at home in their house too. In some cases he is standing at the door knocking while carelessness or indifference are found inside but he is willing to wait. Sometimes the Xboxes are in control and conversation takes second place but he waits for a chance to be heard or seen. He says he is to be found in every neighbour, even in rowdy brothers or sisters, even in surly teenagers or exasperated elders. Jesus loved being in a crowd. Open your eyes to see him in your home!
This book shows the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph under a firmament of stars. We are being reminded that we are one in the family of faith, sharing our small planet as we hurl through space. The whole earth is our home, and all peoples are our brothers and sisters. We have many chances to be responsible and unselfish when we recall that we are all in this together. God is like a Mother and Father to us. We are not alone. Jesus journeys with us, and we journey together doing the ordinary things and the religious practices. God is pleased to share every part of you.
God is the Father and Mother whose heart never sleeps. The hands of the Creator are always attentive to the works that He has made. Jesus tells us that God has numbered the hairs on our heads. Jesus is the Son of God made man who wants to clothe us in a warm garment of his love. By his coming at Christmas he shows that he is at home in our home. At Mass he is our food and our drink, our comfort in sorrow, our healing when we are wounded, our light in darkness and our best family friend.