A few weeks ago I started to meet members of our congregation. These meetings are part of my formation and pastoral activity here, in Prittlewell (Southend on Sea, UK). Sipping from his cup of tea, one of those whom I have already met told me that we have to give voice to those members of the congregation who are not heard, for they could have so much to say us. Since then, I am still continuing to think about that. When I was student, one of my sisters, with her two children, came to visit my mum. Unfortunately, I was very busy writing an essay. My grandfather was sitting in the same room where I was writing. At some point, I became very unhappy because of my sister’s children’s noise. My grandfather told me then: “Did you pay a little attention to find out why they have started to make more noise than usually?”. I turned toward them and I saw them trying to explain me that they wanted to give me a present for the coming Christmas. I was so ashamed.
We have so many plans, many projects, not all kind of plans and projects, but big plans, life changing projects, future reshaping. Who has time for small things, small ideas, low voices?
The general election are knocking on our door. The politicians sing as loud as they can, with mermaid voices, about their big plans, about how our future will look like if we will give our vote to them. They seem to be so busy in presenting their shining project of the future that no other voice can be heard. And, unfortunately, a lot of us believe that the politicians are right. Their plans and projects become ours, without any use for us. We are trapped.
Christmas is at hand and the noise of the market is already on at the highest level: buy from us and your Christmas will be perfect. It is a fantastic noise and so often it sounds for us like the best melody, but the voice of the true Christmas, of what we have to celebrate is faded in this noise. So many offerings in helping us to discover and to gain the “spirit of Christmas”!
“God spoke to our ancestor many time and in many ways”, says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, but he reminds us that today he speaks to us “trough his son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). How did his son come to us? In the most simple way, in the most silent way. A child, a poor one, born in a manger and he wants us to listen to his voice.
The season of Advent and Christmas’ teaches us how we can grow, how we can build a family, a society, a congregation, and who has to be listened. We all know when a proper growth is happening: it starts with the smallest action and step, with the smallest piece of material, with the smallest/youngest member of the congregation. The growth and the future have to be rooted in this reality and have to be oriented toward it. If they are, we are on the wrong way.
Instead it is simple to follow this way; it is a lifelong way of planing and living – there is no space for shortcuts or projects for a group or other – together or against each other. There is no space to ignore the small voices today because we need the strongest ones. Life starts in the most humble way. The congregation’s life should follow the same principle. Love starts in the same way.
This is the root of real optimism and hope: do not be afraid that we are so small that our voice can’t matter.
This is Christmas time, the day when a lullaby becomes the ground of the future for a family, a congregation, a nation… this is the way how every project starts. Pay attention to that.
Blessed Advent, Joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year!
(Article written for St. Mary’s Church’s Magazine, Prittlewell, December 2019/January 2020)