A Christmas Reflection – Pastoral Care Column

Nativity xmas

Christmas is a time when Christians remember the birth of their King, the Lord Jesus Christ. It has become a time for family, gifts, holidays and lots of food, but while some are enjoying these things, others are struggling with loneliness, isolation, poverty, illness, old age, abuse – the list is endless.

The story of the birth of Jesus, his life and message, is one of hope and joy for the world, and He has called people everywhere to share this. How are we doing in our personal lives with spreading joy, peace and love to those around us this Christmas?
True Story – A poor young refugee couple
Some years ago, there was a very young Middle Eastern couple living in an occupied territory. Times were tough, and neither of them came from families with money.
The young man in the couple was working with his hands in a town quite far from where their family homes were. The girl fell pregnant before they were married and because he loved her, he stood by her even though it wasn’t his child.
In those days, people were horrified at this and the couple were socially isolated and in disgrace. The poor young girl went to stay with a cousin for a few months, but when she returned, things weren’t much easier, and to top it all, the occupying army made people return to their home towns for a census.
They had no money for transport, so they had to walk all the way, alone, frightened, and with the girl heavily pregnant. When they got there, they were made very unwelcome! Nobody would take them in because they were such an embarrassment to the family.
Unmarried and pregnant? How humiliating! The excuse was made that all the rooms in the town were full (but were they really?). A heavily pregnant family member and they couldn’t find it in their hearts to take her in and care for an exhausted teenager?
When the girl suddenly started getting alarming pain, the couple huddled together in misery and fear in an animal enclosure for warmth and comfort. The baby came with only a terrified young man to assist – no midwife – no mum for comfort and advice – no clean sterile hospital for security.
Just a young couple and maybe a few animals, with hay and strips of cloth to keep the newborn warm. Imagine how they both must have felt? Responsible for this tiny new life with no one to turn to for advice.
Strange men from outside the town came to stare at the baby, and left noisily singing in delight, but no family came with gifts or offers of help and comfort. More strange men came from another country, bringing very valuable gifts, but still no local people came to celebrate the birth of the baby.
The new family had to flee to the neighbouring country following a threat of violence, and to seek asylum there for two years. Young. Scared. Refugees. Foreigners. Socially isolated. No family support – only each other to depend on.
Today: How would you have treated this couple and new family? How would you have offered them hospitality? Shown compassion, despite the possibility of judgement of their personal situation?
Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to share our time with people who may be socially isolated, feeling ill, lonely, and afraid of death, or foreigners far away from family support. We may be in a privileged position, able to offer hospitality, compassion and generosity, and in this way to show each other the love of God.
By Cathy Strachan