It’s some years ago now, that the Dublin based school-teacher and writer, Bryan MacMahon, wrote a story about a young substitute teacher, who was posted to a small rural school. After the initial excitement of getting the job, she soon became conscious that there was something wrong with the children. The light, the lively energy, so typical of youngsters, just wasn’t there. It wasn’t long before she realised that the problem was that they had never been introduced to the wonderful world of myths – the great Irish stories, like the Children of Lir or Cúchulainn or Fionn MacCuchaill. As we all know, children love stories, and stories are so important for them if they are to develop the imagination of their hearts, as well as their intellects.
When we want to celebrate Christmas sometimes our hearts just aren’t in it. Something holds us back from being free. It might be a vague feeling we have that unsettles us or maybe we have a very clear understanding of what causes us to feel trapped. Whatever it is that’s holding us back, God is calling us to happiness. And God calls every part of us - the tidy stuff we’ve sorted out and all the untidy messy stuff that is part of everyone’s life.
This is what the young teacher said to the country children under her care:
Your eyes are like rooms that are dark and brown. But somewhere in the rooms, if only you will pull aside the heavy curtains, you will find windows – these are windows of wonder.
We all, I think, love stories. Maybe that’s why we love gossip and stories about other people’s lives. But there are also good and healthy stories. Stories that fill us with encouragement and hope and make us feel good about ourselves and the world we live in.
But for some strange reason bad stories seem to stay in our minds longer than good ones. We remember the cross word or the difficult relationship rather than dwell on the kind compliment or the happy time.
So how is it possible for us to think and imagine about the wonder and excitement of Christmas? It’s not always easy to be like a jolly angel with the multitude of the heavenly host praising God. But the words of the teacher offer us a glimpse of hope. Despite how we might be feeling now, there is always the potential for happiness in the future, if only we can find those ‘windows of wonder’ in the present.
Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, said: ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10) He didn’t say that he came so that we could have a little bit of life or a tiny portion of happiness. To the full. No terms and conditions. No hidden criteria. Every person is called just as they are and are offered full and complete happiness. This is the Jesus of Christmas and the Jesus of each of our lives.
So at Christmas if we feel trapped or uncertain, may we have the courage to open and refresh our windows of wonder, so that our imaginations might be on fire with the love of the God who calls us and loves us just as we are.