Christmas 2013 is now history, and we have already entered into a New Year, 2014.  Gone is all the excitement in the ‘run-up’ to biggest feast of the year, and people are gradually getting back to normal – back to work – the children back at school, and many will wonder what all the ‘fuss’ was about.  Many, too, will be wondering how they are going to pay back the monies they borrowed, just to get them through the festive season – money for presents, for food and for the amounts of beer, wine, and spirits, perhaps on reflection, they ought not to have drunk.

The high street stores have been counting their ‘coppers’, so we hear on the news – and their shareholders.  The House of Fraser was delighted to announce an increase in their profits, but Debenhams, rather reluctantly, had to broadcast the disappointing news that their profits had taken a tumble, and their finance director resigned, at once.  And so, it goes on, from the big department stores to the supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrison’s … not to mention Boxing Day sales and the sales on the internet.  Sales, profits … money, money, money!

Is this what Christmas is all about, I ask?  At Christmas time, the news items on television, included a mention of the survey carried out in Manchester, on behalf of the Bishop, in which 51 per cent of those responding to the questions asked, said that, for them, Christ had nothing to do with Christmas, and they did not concern themselves with religion.  If only they might become aware of what they are missing! 

From Christmas, I think we might easily extrapolate and make the ‘jump’ to all life, and ask the question: “Is this all that life is all about now in England – England, once known as the ‘Dowry of Mary’; is it all about money and nothing else?  And, not just this country; the malady appears to be consistently growing across the developed countries of the modern world – America, Europe, the Far East!

I used to think that there was a sort of equilibrium in English society – a sort of balance in which work was weighed against holidays, pleasure and the like; relaxation is good for the soul, too.  People used to balance time off, with attending church services, and with time devoted to prayer.  We used to take delight in helping each other, especially when times were hard – not much money about – plenty of poverty, disease and sickness – and so, with ‘backs to the wall’ it was a wonderfully rewarding thing to be able to help a neighbour, a feeling that was very much the essence of England at war with Germany (and, it seemed, like the rest of the world) in two Great Wars. 

Our society, in those days, was a more caring society – not solely being driven by ‘self’, and at ‘breakneck’ speed by technology – in communications, in Information technology of all kinds, in television and the media; I have a feeling, we are now moving so fast along these sorts of paths, that we do not have time to draw breath before the next ‘advance’ is upon us, and all the sales hype tells us that we must have this, or that, otherwise we are not ‘with it’. “Have you seen the new curved-screen tele?” “Have you seen the new x-pad?” And, “That new game-player – gremlins and demons, et al, at the ready – is a must.”  They are KOOL, mate – KOOL!

If we follow the prescription in the paragraph, above, my view is that we are heading for disaster, and so my next question is, “How do we redress the balance?”  It does not take much soul-searching to come up with an answer – the answer is ‘HE’ and He is with us at all times:

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The Word of God comes to us at Christmas – God’s gift to us in the Incarnation of His only Son, Jesus – and one of the two greatest feasts, we Christians enjoy and celebrate, hopefully for the right reasons.

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 A Nativity Scene

It may be thought, like the Christmas of 2013 – now passed into history – that we are back to where were before, but that is not the end of the story, for God is always with us – He and his Son, Jesus.  Jesus promised that he would never desert us – a wonderful promise – and one, I am sure, he keeps: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And look, I am with you always, even to the end of time.” (Matthew 28, 19-20).

Jesus comes to us when we pray – when we go to Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament – whenever we are in trouble and ask for help – whenever we try to help another.  He is there when we praise and adore him.  He is there with us, in our waking and in our sleeping.  I believe it is true to say that, truly, we are never alone.  Always, we have God’s protection in the form of himself – the Father of us all, in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit – who comes to give us strength and courage to go about our lives in the way God intended.

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 The Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgement – Michelangelo

This ‘coming of Jesus’, with us all the time, especially when we call upon him, may be called his ‘middle’ coming, for, at the ‘end of time’, we believe that Jesus will appear in his ‘Second’ coming on the Day of Judgement.  At this time we shall see him in all his glory.  In the Nicene, we recite our belief that:

“… he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. … We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

As regards this Second coming of the Lord, Matthew (24:30) declares:

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”

And there, we have it!  Jesus comes to us as a baby, a helpless child, poor, weak and humble – certainly nothing like the birth of a prince, or future king.  From this coming, we progress to his life on earth, his teachings, his passion and death, culminating in his resurrection – the final proof of his divinity.  His second coming, we are told will be quite different, frightening in its majestic enormity, carried on the clouds, surrounded by choirs of angels – to judge the whole of mankind.  Between, we have his middle coming – so I term it – when we know he is with us, Maranatha, Emmanuel – how exquisitely wonderful. 

As regards all of these comings, I have the distinct impression that Jesus is never more than a breath away – if only we realise the truth of his great love for us.