Cancellations and gateways

It's Christmas Eve. I finished work yesterday, and this morning has been blissfully slow. In a minute I will start some final tidying and cleaning, as I would if I were preparing for a dear friend's long-awaited arrival. Yes, I know that Jesus won't use the fresh hand-towel, and he sees the place when it's untidy and unpolished, and loves me throughout, but there's a quiet enjoyment in the anticipation, and a slowing down in the steady dusting which I savour, and need. 

My plans for Christmas had to change about a week ago; this year's will undoubtedly be the quietest I have ever had. But I am not disappointed: yes, Christmas Day had promised to be fun and convivial, but I'm still in good health, thank God, and unlike many people, I have not faced the cancellation of a longed-for family reunion. Christmas, even more this year, has become synonymous with parties and meals and gatherings - cancel those, and the headlines scream that it is Christmas itself which has been cancelled. It has not, of course - as I wrote more than once last year* - but that word, cancelled, has been used so much, I became curious, and decided to look up its etymology. 

It derives from the Latin word, cancelli, meaning crossbars, and came to mean deleting writing by drawing lines through it. But oh... in that first moment of seeing cancelli I saw cancello, the Italian word for a gate... of course - because a traditional gate has crossbars...! Why had I never seen or wondered at any connection...? But never mind; I have now. And how amazing that a gate, which can symbolise both closure and opportunity, barrier and boundlessness; which can be protection, as well as something easily scaled, shares the same roots as cancellation, which only means deletion! Cancellation closes; denies access... whereas a gateway... a gateway is access, an entry point, an opening to a new pathway, to something vaster, wider... even into the heart of our world... 

Maybe here there's an invitation - not just for Christmas - to see cancelled plans as an opportunity, and as an opening... And a reminder, too, of Jesus, the Key of David, who opens doors and hearts and ways into the depths of God's Heart no-one can close, and offers us freedom from so much which keeps us captive. 

And finally... I leave you with a little Christmas gift. If you're a word nerd like me, you'll enjoy this; likewise, if you enjoy quirky things, as I do. But even if you think you don't, I invite you to click on this link, and enjoy a delightful etymological round, beginning and ending - of course - with Christmas. 

Wishing you all a happy and healthy Christmas, and the inexpressible joy of Jesus, Love, present in and among us, and at the heart of our bruised and beautiful world. Jesus, our un-cancellable gateway into God...

* Posts from last year regarding the 'cancellation' of Christmas:

Christmas in the fullest sense

Christmas is not cancelled

Changed and changeless Christmas