Marie McCoy (Religious Education teacher at St Ninian’s High in Giffnock)
Here we go again. Not so long ago my classroom was a hive of Advent activity as my pupils listened to ‘O’ antiphons and designed Jesse tree decorations. Now, like classrooms up and down the country, it lies empty and deserted and we must return instead to the soulless world of online learning.
Dr Maureen A Farrell (Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader MEd Children’s Literature and Literacies, UoG)
Descriptions of Christmas 2020 usually seem to include words like unusual, challenging or unprecedented. One I would add is absence. The absence of contact, the absence of touch, the absence of gathering – social and religious. And for me one of the biggest absences is the absence of singing, particularly choral singing and even more specifically singing at weekly mass and the annual carol concert.
As the Christmas holiday draws to a close, and the festivities die down, often it can feel like a disappointment. We return back to ‘normal’, to work, or to school, albeit this year somewhat differently. As our Christmas holiday ends and we enter into the last few months of winter, it can seem quite bleak. There is no holiday to look forward to, no star to follow. However, within the Church’s liturgical calendar Christmas is very much still with us. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the hopefulness and promise that is found within the Incarnation. This is the message of hope and light that Christmas celebrates, and it is also the message that is at the heart of the teaching mission of the Church. This is also a message that we live out and witness to in our daily lives as Christians the whole year round.
As a mother of two girls aged seven and nine, the build up to Christmas at home is magical. Over the last few weeks, the anticipation of Christmas has been quite something. Don’t get me wrong, we always ensure that we observe Advent in our house and contextualise the waiting for Christmas in the Advent narrative. While we cannot escape—nor do we entirely want to—the Christmas music; the premature decorations; the early gift exchanging; chocolate money and mince pie eating; and all of the usual associated Christmas activities, I’m pretty confident that my girls know that Advent is a very special season marking the start of the new Church year and that this important time has its own liturgical focus, colours, feel, message, scriptural figures and so on. The girls are fortunate that their grandparents ensured that Advent was appropriately observed, and that this tradition has passed from generation to generation—a testimony to the faith commitment of the girls’ ancestors (although I can’t imagine that dancing around the house singing ‘Gaudete’at full volume on the third Sunday of Advent is part of that legacy—yes, that does actually happen!) December is a particularly special time in our household, and we are thankful for that.