As we approach Christmas and the end of the year it is often a time for thinking about the year that has been, good things and obstacles or heartaches we have had to deal with. It is for many a time for a bit of an audit and New Year’s resolutions, which are made and often broken by the time we get back to work.
Watching a nativity play we see children stepping into this birthing story with delight. There is Mary – from Grade One – serious about her role as mother and ready to do her parents proud. Joseph is one of the older primary school boys, in brown with a false beard and tugging at the cord around his hessian tunic. The three wise men are the school triplets and the real live baby Jesus is a baby that has been borrowed for his family for an hour.
As the children present their play and forget lines and cues and somehow do a beautiful job their innocence shines out for all in the audience to see. It is a balm for hearts that have been hardened in the light of the year’s disappointments or misgivings. It is a jubilant jolt of joy for those for whom the year has been good.
However the year has panned out, seeing a nativity play or kneeling in front of a home-grown manger, we grow into kindness and kinship for those by whom we are surrounded. We are reminded that the world is made new when a child is born. We are swaddled again in innocence.
I am reminded of good things that have happened during the year. I think of men and women I know who have come together to assemble birthing kits for women in third world countries whose mortality and that of their infant could well be compromised without these hygiene products. These birth stories are not so different to that of mother Mary and her blessed son two thousand years ago. A $3 per birthing kit may help to bring new life into the world and that is always something to celebrate as all life is sacred.
As the year closes I am reminded too of those who have died and who will not gather around our Christmas tables. I would like to particularly mention the passing of a valiant woman of the Church, Sister Margaret Mary Kennedy fcJ, a woman who loved Mary devoutly and who was loved by the many friends, colleagues and students who came into her sphere.
Of Irish stock, she was born in Richmond in 1927 and attended Vaucluse FCJ College. Margaret Mary entered the novitiate in 1945 and took her first vows in 1947 before departing for her tertianship overseas and the accomplishment of an Honours Arts degree in French and English from the national University of Ireland.
She spent twenty years at FCJ College Benalla, two years as local leader in Paris, and was an outstanding principal at Genazzano FCJ College, Kew. In 1984 she was awarded the Order of Australia medal for her service to education.
Instead of retiring, Margaret Mary spent the next ten years in Romania teaching and leading young woman who were finally trying to find a way forward after the horrors of the Ceaucescu regime. Back home in 2003 she continued, in her indefatigable way, to be involved in many enterprises for others. She was a woman of faith, good humour and tireless and enthusiastic energy.
So as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child let us remember all those who have lived and died in Christ and know that they are never far from us.