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Is there time for Christmas?

In this press button era, when we can call up the whole world on the Internet with one touch of a finger, we would like to command our happiness with similar ease; it should be instant and total.

The illusion that we can do this is common enough, as we see all around us: Eat me, Drink me, Wear me, Drive me and you’ll be happy forever.

Buy now, pay later and you won’t be deprived of the immediate gratification that you deserve.

What is intolerable is that we should have to wait—for anything. In this impatient age the man or woman who builds a faster car, a speedier programme or an instant meal is on to a winner. But, as the posters shout to us, speed really does kill and not just on the roads.

We can no longer live comfortably with the sense that things take time, that growth needs time to develop and mature, our restless spirit becomes small and shrivelled. 

Our nets remain empty, as the happiness we are trying to catch continues to elude us.

If there is one thing that emerges clearly throughout the bible it is the art of waiting. Again and again the prophets proclaimed that happiness was on its way, but was not yet there.

They urged the people to wait patiently for God to save them, never to give up hope, but to believe in the promises of a faithful God. However great their troubles, they must never lose heart.

“Let us strive to know the Lord whose coming is as sure as the sunrise” (Hosea 6:3). Those who believed in the promises held fast and kept the vision alive.

At that time of Jesus’ birth we meet a number of these people whose hearts have been honed and readied, whose faith is unwavering as they waited for the restoration of Israel (Luke 2:25).

They are small, fervent and poor, unremarkable in the society, but beacons of light for those who believed. Zechariah, the priest, and Elizabeth, his wife, whose delight in her own good news gave way to joy at her young cousin’s pregnancy; old, faithfuls, Anna and Simeon, who rejoiced because, “I have seen with my own eyes the deliverance you have made ready in full view of all nations” (Luke 2:30-31).

Joseph and his wife Mary, whose acceptance of the happening they couldn’t fully understand unlocked the door for all of us. Their readiness and openness to mystery is the work of time and patience.

Centuries before, the prophet Habakkuk had written, “There is still a vision for the appointed time; it will testify to the destined hour and will not prove false. Though it delays, wait for it...” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Now, at last, the time had come, the vision was being realised, the waiting at an end and so Simeon, recognising the infant in Mary’s arms could pray, “Now Lord, you are releasing your servant in peace, according to your promise” (Luke 2:29).

To the old man was given the answer to the longings of the ages and in the tiny bundle in Mary’s arms. He saw the fulfilment of all his hopes and the hopes of his people.

Christmas calls us to this recognition, calls us to see the infant Mary holds. For this we need time, not so much to take it as though we were snatching it from our hectic days, but rather to give it, graciously, lovingly and with longing, to the Lord of all our days.

No instant results, no press button elation, but surely, if we are true, a peace filling our hearts gently, quietly, telling us that we are welcome, that there is peace for us with Mary and Joseph and with all who, down the ages, have recognised the child, the Son of God, and knelt to adore him in silence.

Almost, without knowing it, we are happy.

• Sister Redempta Twomey