Pic #1: Milk Crate and Cardboard Manger with the ‘Credo Cross’
Pic #2: Carols by Candlelight, Sydney Myer Music Bowl.
Lighting the Way Home
Bill Loader demonstrates how John describes the mystery of Christmas through an amazing mixing of the philosophical ideas of Logos, “the Word” (Greek) and Jewish ideas of Sophia or Wisdom seeking to find a home.
“The Word became flesh and made home among us.”
“The light that shines in the darkness and enlightens everyone.”
It made me think of my own experiences of home and light this Christmas.
“…and made home among us”: Home #1
Tis the season to be… exhausted!
It’s hard to celebrate Christmas when you work with homeless people for whom Christmas magnifies marginalisation. A reminder of loneliness and family lost.
Nevertheless we put on a great ‘Credo Christmas’ meal for the homeless on the banks of the Yarra river.
As part of it we read a rewritten Christmas story to emphasise Jesus’ homelessness. It’s a simple, earthy, meaningful liturgy.
It’s also chaos, an exhausting, last gasp, end of year effort by a few to offer meaningful hospitality to many.
Of course the many will do the welfare rounds and receive more pressies and Christmas dinners than myself. At Christmas time there is much goodwill and guilt to consume, but its not home!
The end of the party marks the end of the year for my activist ‘mob’, we flee the many, the city, and each other and travel ‘home.’
“…and made home among us”: Home #2
Home is hard.
The journey….. preparation, kids, roads….advent readings fill my mind, the hope filled promises of the prophets to the returning exiles versus the reality upon arrival. All that is famil-iar. Memories good and bad.…the road trip home is always a metaphor.
Generations and threads of family collide and entwine for a time. People who knew you at the start the journey and can dig to your roots. Joy and awkwardness mix, relating to people with whom you share so much and yet so little; with and through whom similarity and difference is so often defined. Past, present and future coalesce in moments of meaning that act as a Melways (Melbourne street directory) for life’s journey. Where am I…… from, at, going?……..
Jesus asks me, ”Who are my mother, my brothers, my sisters?” (Mark 3)…. I have always held that the proof is in the (Christmas) pudding!
I smile… politely at my family across the Christmas meal.
I consider… who the ‘many’ homeless I have left behind are looking at over their Christmas lunch?
I wonder … if home is really in the text messages (from the seedy bunch of assorted spiritual co-travellers) that vibrate in our pockets ‘under the table’.
“…light shines in darkness”: Carols by Candelight #1
Across the Yarra banks the camera pans the sky-scape of the city, the lights are on at ‘the G’, preparing for the coming Boxing Day Cricket. The family sits down to watch Carols by Candle Light broadcast live from the iconic Sydney Myer Music bowl.
I recall… that Sydney Myer’s philantrophic foundation has also funded
our Christmas carols and bbq with homeless people on the same Yarra banks.
I wonder… what the pioneer Melbourne retailer would have thought of each Carols celebration.
I consider… that Sydney Myer was Jewish, (or did he “convert” to try and
make it into the exclusive, establishment Melbourne Club????) .
I recall… that this year is the first in forty odd that the Jewish Candle lighting festival of Hanukkah coincides with Christmas day. (A festival that celebrates the Maccabean liberation of the Jewish people from Hellenistic occupation before the birth of Christ).
Back from the ad break and every saccharine celebrity from Melbourne’s hoi polloi seems to become a born again Christian for the night! Ray Martin, Denis Walter, Daryl Somers and Plucka Duck! The mix of the locally famous, marketing schmaltz, paternalistic charity and superficial sentiment makes great television… but its not cool to be sophisticatedly cynical on Christmas eve… is it?! These are, after all, the memories (or should I say celebrities) of my childhood. ‘Our’ Debra Byrne and her five year old daughter sing “Silent Night” together. It’s abysmal and captivating all at once. I’m tired and emotional. I shed a tear.
I wonder… if Joseph lit a Hanukkah candle at the birth of the child as a
reminder of the liberation of his people from an oppressive force.
I wonder… what it might have meant to him as he nursed his betrothed and
newborn in a shed, dislocated from home by the Roman census.
I wonder… if the Romans had their own celebrities running a Hanukkah candle lighting as a census entertainment spectacular.
“…light shines in darkness.” Carols by Candelight #2
The family turns off the television and drives on out to a Midnight carol service in a bush church house that stands in the middle of a paddock/nowhere.
It’s a tiny, uncomfortably primitive chapel built by and for generations gone and yet out of the summer darkness people arrive as if in some Tolkienesque ritual.
This night the faithful ’hangers on’ of this ‘heritage’ congregation are joined by the many and the usual empty relic of a place is packed out. Lit only with candles, we sing the roof off.
My father just back from Cornwall hosts the event and contrasts the barmy Aussie night with his last Christmas eve where he stood in the hail and sleet singing carols in the streets of St. Ives. He recalls the roots of the Australian tradition when in the 1860’s Cornish miners in Moonta would gather outside the mine at the change of the shortened Christmas eve shift and sing ‘curls’ to the light of their ‘Fat Jack’ tallow candles stuck to the front of their safety hats with dabs of damp clay while the mine managers turned a blind eye.
He gives a simple gospel message about how Jesus can be the light in the darkness of our world and our lives.
I consider…In this place, at this moment, it could still be 1860.
I wonder in all this… Does our Christmas celebrate grace and truth, the timeless Word that has come and made its home among us, the light that enlightens all?
Or does our Christmas become a less than enlightening attempt by ourselves to re-constructing home as some sort of abstract ideal that is based in other stories, places and times, while the Word has come home and we have not recognised?
Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Holiday.