It is estimated that this Christmas around 90,000 children and young people in the United Kingdom will be homeless. You have to agree that that is a shocking statistic for one of the world’s wealthiest countries! This does not take into account either, all the people who will need to access the growing number of Food Banks over the Christmas period, not because they are scroungers but because they are hungry. While the adverts remind our children continually of all the things that they must have and should expect this Christmas and we are reminded of the gluttony that makes
the perfect Christmas for everyone, I hope we will take time to stop and reflect on what Christmas is really about. We also need to be mindful of the growing number of people for whom Christmas is a nightmare, especially those struggling with reduced incomes, debt and homelessness, and children who will have little this Christmas except broken dreams.
In many ways, the Christmas message, for both churchgoers and non-churchgoers, has been reduced to a story of a mother singing a lullaby to a baby sleeping peacefully on golden hay. It is a sanitised version of the reality that records that at the time of the birth, Mary and Joseph were essentially homeless refugees and the baby was born in a stinking cave amongst the cattle. It was not a prestigious start for God’s Son and is a salutary reminder to us that when God chose to come and live among us he did not choose to live with the rich and powerful but the meek and lowly. Even the baby’s first visitors were shepherds who at that time were social outcasts.
As Christians, we should try to find time to prepare for this special festival and reflect on the precious gift God gave the world - his Son, born as a human child. The season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is designed for that but taking time out for prayer and reflection when we’re so busy with preparations for the festivities isn’t easy. Maybe taking a break from all our business and endeavouring to be in church on the Sundays of Advent is one option.
This year a new little booklet, also designed to help us prepare for Christmas, has been produced called Love Life, Live Advent: Make Room for the Manger. For each of the days in Advent there is a simple activity, ideal for families too, to help us pause, reflect and focus on the true meaning of this season and to make room in our busy lives to receive God’s greatest gift. You can find out more about this at www.liveadvent.net .
It is also worth taking time to look at the Church Urban Fund website and their article From despair to hope this Christmas. CUF has produced a free online Advent Calendar to reflect on the issues and show how churches are helping. It includes a daily video, reflection and prayer.
I wish you a Happy and Joyful Christmas but I am also mindful of those for whom this is a difficult time, as I hope you are.