Nine huge Christmas trees, dripping with tinsel and flashing lights, filled the church. Gemma-Rose’s eyes grew wide and round as we walked up the aisle. And then we noticed the nativity scene. Mary and Joseph were in the stable looking lovingly upon the baby Jesus. In front of the stable was a flock of sheep. All this we expected to see. But then as we watched, the sheep began to move. Around and around they slowly glided in a perfect circle.

After a short time, the sheep came to a halt and our attention was caught by one sheep in particular that towered over the others. There were some giant shepherds too, while others were smaller than the sheep they guarded.

The Three Wise Men were to one side. They were still on their way to the stable where Baby Jesus lay in the manger. These Magi were dressed in magnificent gold clothes and, unable to wait, one was already down on his knees as if presenting his gift. Between the worshipping Magi and the revolving sheep was a huge reindeer.

A red light suddenly illuminated the plastic bonfire where shepherds might warm their hands. The sheep once again came to life. Nose to tail they followed each other like sheep, around and around the turntable. Then the fire flames died as the red light went out and once again the sheep became lifeless.

A bell rang, the sacristy door opened, the priest entered the church and Mass began.

Gemma-Rose reluctantly returned to the pew, we opened our hymn books and soon the church was filled with the sound of joyful voices.

As we sang, the lights from all the trees flashed and twinkled. Red, blue, green and yellow lights chased each other around the branches of the pine trees, sometimes slowly, sometimes at a frantic pace. None of the trees worried about keeping in time with its neighbours.

I remember how magical and special Santa’s grotto seemed to me, all those years ago, when I was a child. To my girls, the church, where we attended Mass on Boxing Day, gave them the same sense of awe and wonder. Later I wondered why the girls had been so affected by the decorated church.

Hadn’t they noticed that the nativity figures were odds and ends from various sets of different sizes? They’d noticed there wasn’t a donkey but why did they accept the huge reindeer substitute? Perhaps they should have questioned the value of the gliding sheep? Why didn’t their heads ache with all the flashing lights? Weren’t they distracted by the out of time twinkling?

Is it that children have no taste? That anything satisfies them?

Or is it that I have become too sophisticated? Do I think there is no beauty without perfection and am I too quick to find fault? Am I too slow to see the magic? Have I forgotten how to be a little child? Perhaps I have lost my sense of awe and wonder.

I’d like to thank the priests and brothers of the Pauline Fathers Monastery for putting together a truly magical nativity scene. Thank you for climbing up to the tops of all those enormous pine trees to ensure that every branch is festooned with tinsel and lights. Thank you for creating a scene that filled my children with a sense of magic and awe and wonder.

I look around our lounge room at all the beautiful decorations. I notice our magnificent Christmas tree with not a branch out of place, the softly glowing lights evenly distributed, their wires hidden by the cleverly placed tinsel. And I make a decision. Tonight we are going to put the lights into flashing mode. The lights are going to flash and chase and slowly fade, and then flash and chase again. I am going to become like a little child and rediscover the magic of simple things, and regain my sense of awe and wonder.

And perhaps the flashing lights will not make my head ache after all. Because it won’t be the lights that I’ll be watching but the lit-up faces of my children, my children who are still young enough to see the beauty in simple things.

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  1. Merry Christmas, Sue! I'm looking forward to being able to really *talk* (email, chat, whatever) soon! My God bless you and yours with abundant joy this Christmas.

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