Whatever Christmas means to you, its symbolic origins are rooted in generosity, hope and outward looking. Angels, Shepherds and Kings came from far and wide to honor Jesus and acknowledge him as King. Despite the less than royal surroundings, born in a manger, no room at the inn, royalty and those of great stature came to kneel in a stable, bring gifts of great joy and give recognition to the newborn King.
Much has been written about the conditions of the stable, far from our idealised nativity plays , the stable likely stunk of animal faeces and was cold, damp and dark. Furthermore Mary and Joseph themselves would have been considered societal outcasts due to the mystery surrounding Mary’s pregnancy and having traveled hundreds of miles to pay their taxes, wind up in their hour of need searching for somewhere to give birth. Arriving at an inn, Luke’s biblical account of the story reads ‘there was no room for them’. Mary gave birth in the midst of rejection shame and loneliness. The significance then of those arriving to celebrate the birth and stand with Mary and Joseph is a profound picture. Imagine Mary’s face as people began to arrive - in that moment any feelings of shame and loneliness were overcome by the power of connection, community and compassion. Mary was recognised.
‘There was no room for them’. Sound familiar?
Today’s parallel of this runs true for many. So many face Christmas with these words as their lived experience and the reality they face; more than 7.8 million Ukrainians face Christmas away from home, 108,000 children are in the UK care system and 227,000 people are experiencing the worst forms of homelessness. How do we recognise and make room for them?
Alongside those who are displaced, many of us face displacement of our hearts this Christmas. From families spending Christmas without their loved ones to those grieving those we’ve lost. Christmas brings memories to the forefront and the absence of those we love is often more prevalent than ever.
There is hope. Here are a few simple ideas for how to recognise those around you this Christmas time:
1. For those struggling with their mental health: Check in with them daily
2. If you see a rough sleeper send details of where and when you see them, as well as a brief description of the person, to StreetLink using their website, app or phone line.
3. For the elderly spending Christmas alone - pop round and take them a Christmas pudding.
4. If you’re friends struggling with grief - be there, listen and don’t try to fix.
5. For loved ones in hospitals and the friends looking after them - offer to drive them and pick them up from hospital visits, make them a Christmas hamper or cook them some home cooked meals.
This list is of course not exhaustive. There are so many people who need to be recognised this Christmas and many ways to do so.
Whilst practical support is important, for all of the above, we’d like to add, one of the simplest ways to recognise someone is to be present, make eye contact and listen. Don’t look away - all we really need is to be seen.
Tis the season to be recognised.
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