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Tidings of comfort



Without Christmas, without that beautiful bookend of closure and celebration for another rather depressing year, where would we be? Speaking for me and mine, ensconced in the oft-locked-down leafy suburbs of Melbourne, 2021 promised much and delivered little more than a continuance of stress, bad blood among some of the tribes that comprise Victorian society, and the hope that heightened vaccination rates will translate into the need for no more lockdowns. That’s certainly a present worth unwrapping.

What about your life? Has this second year of COVID-19 brought reassurance or renewed anxiety? Have you been tested and tested again, hospitalised, prodded and poked and pained, or borne away, clear of concerns of infection? Or is that reality alI in the rear-view mirror, as you cruise to vistas bestrewn with pavlovas, Christmas parties and holidays by the beach?

In a despairing attempt to shed some COVID kilos I and my hulking teenage son have been attending extra karate classes, working towards a grading to receive our brown belts. (Said belt, if all goes well for me, will sit snugly atop a more svelte frame.)

Food is a Yuletide passion; an Advent joy that will transcend any dietary discipline I have mustered, come Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve. I would not have it otherwise.

Fiscal folly is a reality also, as we ignore the weighty pull of receipts to covertly pounce on gifts with wrapping paper and sicky tape (in the vain hope of surprising teenagers who longer ago uncovered our hiding spots).

Between car repairs, a new air conditioning unit, the services of plumbers, electricians and various tradies, the months of November and December have taken a large toll. In this instance, storing up presents throughout the year and a lack of interstate travel courtesy of the nation’s premiers has meant we’ve been able to cope financially. For some of us, lockdowns have had an unexpected upside fiscally.


'Christmas stages our best selves, and lets us nut out the unified theory of self that is only proved in the company of others.'


Fun has been a partially absent friend this year. We hope to continue to get reacquainted these holidays, through the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure, sun, leisure and the sheer joy of getting in a car and driving as long and as far as we want to, dispersing disposable income as we cruise though hamlets. 

Without the cyclical stories, without the bedrock of family rituals, tall tales, the laughter of recognition, frisson of siblings renewed, parents embraced, and remembrances of those who have left us, Christmas is a sorry thing.

We need story and song. Melancholy and nostalgia, as Fr Andy Hamilton has beautifully reminded us, can be a powerful, healing and redemptive force.

Friends make it possible for us to be who we are; they verify our worth, calculate our capacity for tomfoolery and translate who we are into who we want to be. Christmas stages our best selves, and lets us nut out the unified theory of self that is only proved in the company of others.

As an ambivert that aspires to extroversion, I love that word: company. The scholarly among us know it means ‘to break bread with’… We don’t have to be the life of the Christmas party to be happy; but what a joy it is to be able to be at that party. To share a drink and a gag, to recall old war stories, ask after absent friends, float some dreams, pop some ego bubbles, take the mickey out of ourselves and our more self-assured mates.

As the year trickles to its welcome ending, dwindles in scope and (hopefully) severity, and work pauses ever so briefly, we are left with how we handle fear.

Do we harbour it, draw it to our breast; nurse it as an anchor to protect our household? Wear it as an ugly amulet to ward away the plague? For your sake, I hope not. I have friends and family whose lives are still tied in emotional knots of stress and anxiety, even if the terror has lessened to an ever-present discomfort. It is no way to live.

Christmas is a renewal of faith for me. Faith in new life, old truths and proven mysteries.

For me, the genuine angst about COVID-19 and the wardrobe of ensuing horrors — the losses of jobs, the lockdowns, lockouts, discrimination, misinformation, hubris, political over-reach and conspiracy theories — are ameliorated by faith.

I have faith in the doctors, nurses, and allied medical professionals who have worked and are working to see people through their illnesses.

I have faith that the things that we have in common are of more substance and value than the things that are used to divide, estrange and lessen us.

I have faith that even if I lose my life to COVID-19, or have a massive coronary and cark it, or get hit by a bus while I walk along with my head in a book, that there is a God who loves me and will sing me a welcome home to the next life.

That my family and friends would surround and support my wife and children.

That the community I love would show them love in return.

Morbidity and intimations of mortality aside, it’s Christmas! Thank God for that.

I wish you the merriest of Christmases, knowing that laughing our way into the future and hoping for better is much healthier than cowering away, nursing old resentments and licking at the wounds of memories soured by grief.

Merry Christmas!


Barry GittinsBarry Gittins is a Melbourne writer.

Main image: Legs with Christmas socks resting on a table. (Getty Images)

Topic tags: Barry Gittins, Christmas, Covid-19, joy, faith, renewal



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Existing comments

“Christmas is a renewal of faith for me”… and hopefully all of us


Brightest of star in the darkest of night
The Spirit of God revealing His light
Innocence lay on a bed of hay
Is this what his gentle eyes do say?
All wise men play their part,
When searching for His light within the dark
Gold Frankincense and Myrrh
Within the righteous heart do stir
Truth is love this must be understood
No manmade decree
It is the action of Truth that sets mankind free
Deception and deceit are trodden upon
By His holy feet
Humble of heart, placid moon, twinkling star
All mankind shall know who you are

May the light of the new-born Jesus
Dwell in our hearts
May its radiance embellish its self within us
And the gift of His joy/peace (Holy Spirit) be ours
This Christmas time and always
kevin your brother
In Christ

Kevin Walters | 07 December 2021  
Show Responses

A Prayer to the Virgin
At Christmas

Yours not to taste
The juice of that forbidden fruit
That fell upon the earth
Of Eden’s wasted land.

Yours to bring forth
In Winter’s deadest month
The Son of Man
Who gave life to the world.

Mary, to you I pray,
In the Autumn of my years
Beg Him to be with me
At the cold hour of my death.

Uncle Pat | 09 December 2021  

Thank you for your Patrick for your comment may your sincere pray lead you to have faith (Trust) in these Words given to us by our Lord Himself
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son”.
We ‘Trust’ in the authority of the Son. We ask in His Name ‘only’ for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And in doing so we hold true to these words given by His esteemed mother “Do whatever He tells you”
May God bless you Patrick this Christmas time and always
kevin your brother
In Christ

Kevin Walters | 10 December 2021  

This Christmas we will host a small gathering of family and will be contemplating a new life next year. I'm grateful that my health has been restored, although not yet ready to run a marathon. Or maybe I am! Merry Christmas, Barry and other ES writers, and thank you for your always wonderful writing(s).

Pam | 21 December 2021  

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