CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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The colour of Christmas

Christmas is white. I know that from the songs of the season that blared dreams of a c from our radio during those hot days leading up to the feast of the birth of the Christ all those years ago.
 
But my Christmases were never white. They were green cricket fields, amber sunsets transfixing silhouettes of sleeping trees to the horizon; blue waters of the southern ocean washing over our bodies, yellow sand sticking to our feet and the smoky aroma of barbecues in the lush oasis of the small garden at the back of our childhood home.
 
But still I knew Christmas was white, as priests droned on about Joseph skilfully guiding his deft-footed donkey bearing his heavily pregnant bethroded through the deep snow, which I imagined soft and soothing like the powder we spread across our sunburned shoulders after showering.
 
They were happy colours, replete with their smells and promises. Later, there were other Christmases; in the chill of Japanese winters; the sweaty heat of the Philippine countryside; the icy mornings and warm, blue skies of Pakistan; and the haze of Hong Kong; but none were white.
 
A small advertisement once caught my eye for a Blue Christmas at St. John’s Cathedral on the last Sunday of Advent. I arrived on an unseasonably warm evening, watched as the scattered people gathered—coming alone, solemn countenances radiating isolation; silent figures with the spring of their youthful gait muted by the tyranny of a single thought from a single time.
 
They sat, respectfully isolated; the separation shrinking as the stately cathedral filled without disturbing the glum quiet; the silence challenged only by the swirl of fans above bowed heads.
 
Linked by alienation, the random congregation of predominately young men of mixed nationality was welcomed by a priest, who like myself, stood as a patriarch among youth. There was prayer; the story of the birth of the Christ; then the peace of solidarity tentatively offered in hesitating handshakes, bringing at least a faint smile to long faces.
 
We lit candles in silence, carrying them to the altar as an expression of regret. Some wept quietly, others fought their tears and simply stood, stoically tacit. This was a Blue Christmas.
 
But this Christmas, a circular from a consortium of Christian groups caught my eye proclaiming a Black Christmas in solidarity with the Church across the northern border, which, it said, is suffering under renewed and highly sophisticated repression from the puppeteers of religion in that land; the Chinese Communist Party.
 
It called for an octave of black; not in protest, not in a call for salvation or mourning of death, but simply in solidarity with those whose religious freedom is being attacked with a more hurried haste than Hong Kong’s.
 
But Christmas is not only a tricolour. It is Blue and it is Black. It may even be White. But it is also a joyful time; a celebration of family, friendships and life. But most of all, as a thanksgiving for God’s gift of hope, it embraces every hue in the spectrum of the human rainbow.
 
I trust your Christmas had colour and yes, even Australia has splotches of white, as we all know that Santa’s sleigh is raced across its vast landscape by six, big, white old man kangaroos—Snow White Boomers! They say reindeers can’t take the heat, I presume because a White Christmas is really only a dream after all! But we do need to dream. JiM