ANY reasons we have for family and friends to get together, to show each other kindness, be generous to others and celebrate in each other’s company, are good things in themselves.
Each year, the few days of Christmas and the New Year holiday period provide the opportunity for many people to do those things.
But the preparation for Christmas can bring its own peculiar challenges, pressures and tensions. With ‘Black Friday’, ‘Cyber Monday’ and the news that online shoppers are worried about whether their gifts will arrive in time, the anxieties which many experience in the lead-up to Christmas simply seem to increase.
Yet there are a great number of people around the world for whom such anxieties would be a luxury.
Few of them will have Christmas at the forefront of their minds. Instead, they will be thinking about how they and the members of their families are basically going to survive.
Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who have become refugees, driven from their homes by war or the threat of violence or persecution, will be trying simply to survive. For them their only thoughts will be finding safety, food, clothing and shelter.
Situations of war and conflict seem to arise in our world year-in and year-out, leaving us feeling powerless to help the people who are suffering.
There is then a danger that we can become insensitive to their suffering.
The frequency of these conflicts can be so despairing that it can lead to the temptation to put those are suffering out of our minds so that the thought of them does not upset us or, particularly at this time of year, our celebrations.
Although we might be very generous in what we give to different charities and do what we can to assist those who are in need, most of us recognise that human effort alone appears to be incapable of bringing about a real and lasting change to these seemingly repetitive situations of human-made suffering.
For this to happen, the hearts and minds of every person need to be changed. Change will not happen simply in the acceptance or imposition of a new political polity or new regime but in the recognition that humankind is unable to save itself. It needs a Saviour!
At Christmas, Christians celebrates the birth of a Saviour.
This Saviour though was not a great man of political power; he had no military fighters to support or defend him.
He had no influential people around him or any impressive financial backing. He did not try to change people’s lives by force or coercion.
The Saviour that Christians celebrate at Christmas was, like many today, born in poverty and not long after his birth had to flee for a period of time with his family as refugees as a result of the threat of violence.
His mother gave him the name Jesus, a name which in the language of his people meant ‘the Lord is salvation’.
He came in humility and weakness; his appeal was through his gentleness, compassion and mercy. He changed people’s lives by loving them and giving up his life for them.
Christians believe that Jesus came into our world and can still come into our lives as the Saviour; to do something for us that we could not and cannot do for ourselves, to liberate us from everything which prevents us becoming the people we were created to be.
In the life of Jesus the Saviour, we discover our true humanity, our true dignity and the greatness of the gift of life itself. Now that really is something to celebrate!
In our celebrations this Christmas, let us be thankful for our family and friends and be mindful of all the good things we have.
Yet never let us forget, or fail to assist in whatever way we can, those who suffer or are in need.