The Real Reason for the Season

“A few years ago, my wife and I became weary stressing ourselves buying for people who have everything they need.”

This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 23/12/2019 Available:  [Accessed: 2019, Dec 24]

I recently spoke to a mum at the school gate who told me she called the Job Centre to ask if she could reschedule a later signing on appointment so she could attend her son’s Christmas school play and was told if she missed the existing one, she may be sanctioned. As my wife and I attended the same play to see two of our own children, I saw her son looking out from the stage for his mum as the words rang out: “It’s Christmas all over the world tonight. Every tear is dry, every eye is bright.”

Moments like these really get you questioning what Christmas is all about. A few years ago, my wife and I became weary with the commercialisation of Christmas and stressing ourselves buying for people who have everything they could possibly need when there were others we knew could benefit more from our contribution. The late theologian and philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, once said: “There are two ways to get enough: one is to accumulate more and the other is to desire less.”

A fortnight ago, a dear friend who sustains himself on a modest income via Disability Living Allowance told me how under pressure he felt by the obligation to buy for the significant number of family members he has. I have also spoken to others, some of whom will be visiting their local foodbank on Christmas Eve or who cannot afford the bus or train fare to visit their families over the festive period. How did a day named after the birth of an impoverished refugee child bring us to this?

Another friend told me this week that, during a recent discussion about the meaning of Christmas, her seven year old son piped up saying: “Christmas is about Jesus and s***.” I would have got a clip around the ear for saying that aged seven but her son was right. Jesus was, indeed, born in a stinking and s***-stained stable. He and his family were the equivalent of modern-day economic migrants having fled the tyrannical Herodian infanticide taking place in first century Palestine.

A church in Southern California recently made headlines when it set up a nativity scene depicting Jesus separated from his family and held behind the fences of a United States Border Patrol detention centre alongside the words: “What if this family sought refuge in our country today?” It was a harrowing depiction of a modern-day reality because, however, we choose to view Christ, there is no doubt that the story of his life, death and resurrection changed the course of human history.

Perhaps the relevance of Christmas message is that, if I can die to my greed, live in a way that challenges injustice and breathes resurrection life into others, perhaps I can embody the spirit of Christmas and influence others to join me in changing the world of those around me.