From the very beginning of December, there was the well-known fever in our otherwise so provincial town. The summer heat was there and in the schools the atmosphere changed from examination tension towards the so typical “never mind” attitude amongst the learners waiting for the holidays to come. In the meantime, Sunday after Sunday, one candle more was lightened upon the Advents wreath in our churches. Some people saw this and others not.
The usual December traffic became quite intensive, and, the fact that a new mall was opened; an extra fleet of cars filled the town daily and occupied the usual parking areas of the locals who started dreaming of having private helicopters which could land on the flat roofs of the businesses.
In the evening, caravans of overloaded minibus taxis with trailers crossed the city direction Transkei and how nearer we came to Christmas, the denser the crowd became in town and in some places, driving turned drastically into creeping. The staff in our malls, clothing- furniture- and liquor stores were just overworked and that in a period speaking about bad economic times.
In the meantime, some of our ladies built up the Christmas crib in the church. Our men looked after the tree, and, after some hours of real sweating, they came to a splendid result.
Traditionally, the Midnight Mass was just beautiful. Everybody likes the Christmas Carols by candle light and the baptisms during that Mass are always very impressive. Our Congregation was not big but also not small, just a little bit different. Some of the usual parishioners were out of town, but therefore we had some visitors. Others, due to the old heresy that school holidays are also church holidays, shone by their absenteeism and others partied a little bit to early which made their presence in church impossible.
After midnight mass, I took some time for myself in front of the Christmas crib and my thoughts went to that mystery of two thousand years ago. Christmas in Bethlehem! Masses of people in that small town came together for the census. They had reasons enough to be in a good mood, because they got the opportunity to meet so many old acquaintances and that they celebrated with loads of food and wine. They were so busy with their cheerful moments that they even did not see a young couple deeply in trouble.
Totally abandoned and on their own, they found a stable where their child could be born. Far away there was party, but in that stable there was happiness and joy. That young couple stood under a good star: the star of Bethlehem and, even if they could not be a part of that cheering crowd in Bethlehem; they got the visit of some simple shepherds and they heard the angels singing because God was born.
Queenstown also had its cheering and partying crowd: the broken bottles on the street on the next day told us their own story. Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! And Christmas Box! Christmas Box!!!
But we also had our stable and we heard the angels singing because we knew that Christ was born bringing us his joy and peace!
Fr. Edward Tratsaert SAC