This year, Christmas almost got away from me. By that I mean I didn’t put out the crèche in a timely manner. The tree barely went up before the children came home for a few days. I kept looking at the lighted tree devoid of ornaments thinking: “That tree doesn’t look bad just as it is — no ornaments, just lights.”
That didn’t work in the long run because I know my children expect to see certain things, even to have certain things for meals because that’s the way it was when they were growing up. Some of the Christmas decorations have particular people and memories associated with them, and now that those people are no longer here, the memories have taken on more meaning.
Since I understand that, I eventually put a few ornaments on the tree, put the music boxes around the house and the special photos of the children as well. With William Shakespeare I guess “All’s Well That Ends Well.” But that’s not really true because Advent and the New Year herald the end of one year and the beginning of another.
What will we do and become in 2016? Certainly older since we can’t avoid that, but will we become wiser? Some of us will, and others won’t. We see so many catastrophic situations bubbling all over the world that it’s difficult to focus on one: immigrants, terrorists, economic conditions here and elsewhere, racial tensions, pornography, greed and the list goes on without end. Most of us are not architects of any policy or doctrine that will make sweeping changes or differences in the world.
However, as individuals we can make a difference in the lives of our families or communities, including our communities of faith. Any change begins with one person, like the pebble in the pond, and we often don’t think about that often enough. The way we talk to our children and grandchildren makes an enormous difference in the way they look at the world, especially when they still listen to us.
We are all teachers, with some of us in the classrooms and the rest of us in our homes. Teachers and other leaders in our parishes and our communities have a tremendous responsibility not only to say the right things but also to do the right things. Sometimes it is the “doing” that sends a clearer message.
Espousing platitudes is simple and easy. Telling other people how to live and what they should be doing is also easy and sometimes gives us a sense of satisfaction. However, nothing we say means anything if we don’t back up our words with action, and that’s where the difficulty lies. Instilling integrity in children means we have to display it ourselves.
So, as I prepare to tuck away the Christmas decorations this year, I happily look forward to the coming year with hope, knowing it will be at least 12 months before I must consider unpacking and decorating for Christmas once again. It is definitely something to look forward to. Happy New Year.