SO we’ve made it to another Christmas. And this one looks set to be a lot more pleasant than the last two.
While the country is facing many other struggles, at least we can give our friends and families hugs and warm embraces when we meet them this year – if we want to, of course!
It’s almost hard to believe how restricted we were in the past – with grannies and grandads being told to stay away from smalllies, or sit by open windows at the Christmas dinner table.
Covid hasn’t gone away, but at least there is a sense that, with the prevalence of vaccinated citizens, we can at least feel a lot less threatened by its presence.
While hospital admission figures have been rising in recent days, they are nothing near where they were 11 or 12 months ago. Let’s hope we don’t ever return to those dark days.
But for now, it’s all about looking forward and into a new year – 2023 – with hopes for a better future for all.
And imagine, that this time last year, the war in Ukraine was unheard of – though there were plenty of warning signs, if the West had chosen to take them on board.
This is the first year that millions of Ukrainians will find themselves away from ‘home’ for their first ever Christmas.
As our two local bishops commented in their joint letter this week, (see opposite), there are so many similarities of theme with the very story of Christmas itself, that it is a little bit humbling.
The age-old story of Mary and her husband, homeless and vulnerable, being turned away from so many doors until at last they find welcome shelter – albeit in a modest stable – is one that has so many resonances today.
For example, our own homeless populations, desperate to find a stable place to lay their heads without fear of being moved on again soon; and our Ukrainian visitors, who simply want to be able to get back to their own homes some time in 2023.
Be it on a micro, or macro level, the theme of ‘home’ is one that is hugely significant to all populations of the world.
It is often said the Irish are obsessed with owning their own homes ¬– but we are now seeing a new generation that would be happy with any permanent home, be it owned, loaned or rented.
Ironically, many Ukrainians currently finding shelter in Ireland do have their own homes – or at least they had, but must now rely on the hospitality of others until they can return to them once more.
The world is certainly in a state of flux and, after two years of a pandemic, there are plenty more challenges that are testing our resolve.
But for now, let us be thankful for what we do have here in Ireland – a relatively secure democratic state where we can empathise with those who have so much less right now. And at Christmas, let us share a little bit of that comfort, and love, with those who need it most.
We don’t know what the next year will bring. But with the resilience we have shown in recent times, we know there is very little that can truly defeat us.
So, with that thought in mind, let us face whatever the world throws at us in 2023, with the same determination and confidence that has brought us to where we are today.