I have a lot of bug bears: those things that annoy you. As I walk the overweight person riding a motorised scooter flies past me and the nasty ego driven Damien whispers, “You need to be walking mate!” The motorised leaf blower that disturbs your peaceful Sunday morning – when nasty ego driven Damien thinks, “a bit of elbow grease never hurt anyone friend” eyeing my well worn broom or rake. But THE thing that annoys me is the term ‘Reality TV’ where six pack laden, mirror worshipping, twitter absorbed young men whisper sweet nothings into the ears of solarium loving, scantily clad young women whose main occupation appears to be to play A against B while all the while pretending to belong to some kind of ‘sisterhood’! Reality TV where toothbrushes, toilet bowls and empty milk bottles do not exist! Am I just getting old?
As this year draws to a close and we prepare to celebrate Christmas there may be value in reflecting on ‘reality’. The sad murders of two young police officers near Tara recently reminded us all of the fragility of life, the noble calling of service and the danger of warping reality. One of the biggest threats to quality life on planet Earth at the moment is the movement towards fundamentalism. Increasingly the world appears to be black and white and in this world it is all about ‘us’ V’s ‘them’. They are a threat, they are the enemy, they are different and to be feared, they are to be conquered so ‘we’ can triumph. We see this played out in politics, in religion, in social dynamics. Those who committed these murders would have justified their actions because of some irrational framing of their world in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This justification means they are unable to see the people behind the uniform, the names behind the badge, the simple goodness of their stories of service.
Putin domestically gets away with mass murder because he labels Ukrainians as Nazis. The PR, behind the scenes manipulators of reality have a field day with this type of thing. It was no accident that some labelled former Australian Prime Minister, “Scotty from Marketing” because the perception at times was that he and other politicians were peddling what the marketing people said “they out there” want to hear rather than what people know to be right.
The world is NOT black and white. There really is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ only brothers and sisters on life’s sacred journey. Whenever we reach for a label to mock or reject another our God weeps. Whenever we reach for a gun or release a war machine the elderly suffer, the planet is broken yet again and the long line of widows and orphans grows alongside the line of scarred young men. No-one wins. Certainly truth does not. And while courage will be found in the simple and the ordinary fighting back against injustice the price paid is extraordinary.
All too much for this time of year?
All of this brings me back to Christmas. All of this brings me back to a simple Jewish girl. What was her reality? Engaged to a simple carpenter. From a poor rural village called Nazareth. Unable to afford or find an inn on the night of her giving birth she and Joseph accept the kindness of an inn keeper to find warmth and shelter in a stable. There in the poverty and simplicity of that place she gives birth. Confusion and mystery lay beneath the excitement of becoming parents for the first time. Did ‘Kings’ bring gold, frankincense and myrrh? Perhaps yes – perhaps no – it really does not matter. Did poor shepherds come along with Kings to “give him homage” – perhaps yes, perhaps no – it really does not matter. Did angels sing – it really does not matter. The tinsel is simply that – tinsel – not reality. What matters is birth and new life, hope and joy, love in the midst of true reality.
As this year draws to a close and the hope of a new year beckons let us each turn within and around to the reality, to the beauty, to the nobility that surrounds us in the worth of the ordinary. As Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes to us disguised as our lives!” Let us find worth and meaning in the true reality that is our lives. Let us constantly turn from the tendency to label and judge, create ‘thems’ and enemies all the while leading to deeper understanding of the stories behind every reality.
If we do this then in small ways and great – in the ordinary and the extraordinary – we will grow eyes to see ‘Emmanuel – God with us’, ‘Emmanuel – Love with us’ – grow ears to hear love’s whisper, feet to walk to need, arms to wrap around and a heart to beat less for self and more for a broken but beautiful world. This Christmas and always may you know in the most intimate of ways the joy, the peace, the love and the hope that that simple Bethlehem stable gifted our world.