I have this sense that after the various football grand finals in September we begin to slide down into Christmas. Some would disagree and say the slide begins after the Melbourne Cup! Whatever the timing of it, we feel this sense of urgency, of things needing to be done and completed before the Christmas break and, for many of us, a summer holiday.
It is as if we believe we will celebrate and enjoy more what lies after that midnight moment of 24 December, and the days that follow, if only we can tidy up and get done what needs to be done in the meantime.
Despite sharing this common temptation to panic and anxiety, I have just finished my annual retreat — a silent retreat, south of Melbourne, in a hermitage in the midst of the Australian bush.
In this space I have been able to relish the gift of silence — to enjoy the rich variety of bush and bird life, the gentle breezes, the warmth of the sun — and appreciate the gift of life. It is as if creation called me to sit and be quiet, despite those many noises that surrounded me.
Someone, after my last posted reflection on this site, commented on my mention of silence and its importance. This was someone who works in government and knows too well what it means to slide, sometimes at an increasing rate, into the weeks that lie between now and Christmas. So much to be done. So much asking or even demanding to be done.
There is, of course, something illogical in thinking that all can be completed by 24 December, as if we are warming up on a runway believing all will be well when we finally lift off and fly into some perfect peace and joy.
Instead, can we hear that gentle whisper that encourages us to find some space? Can we enjoy some rest, some quiet? Can we take an opportunity to listen to what calls us to more deeply acknowledge and love, and enjoy more deeply, all Christmas brings and promises?
Our Australian bush reminds us of the gift of creation, this ‘common home’ as Pope Francis names it. It is this home that Jesus came to live in. A home inviting us to keep listening to what is most valuable and beautiful within it.
A suggestion: Take some time off before Christmas. Listen to the depth and mystery of God’s creation. For it is into this very depth and mystery that Jesus came.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial