A Christmas of Contrasts
I wonder how those who favour harsh policies towards desperate people seeking haven and hope in this country will celebrate Christmas this year. For their sake I hope they don’t listen to the story at the heart of the season. They might choke on their turkey and gag on their champagne!
With a worrying sense of déjà vu, I have been aware of a disturbing juxtaposition of images. The Holy Family being turned away from the inn is overlaid with child-bearing mothers in boats confronted with gun-bearing navy vessels.
The image of a mother and child surrounded by animals and shepherds merges with images of a fearful mother with a newborn infant in a detention centre in Indonesia, Christmas Island or the Australian mainland.
The Holy Family fleeing to Egypt seeking asylum from terror, blends with images of hundreds of desperate people being turned away from our abundant shores.
The Christmas storyteller recalls a vulnerable couple seeking refuge in a strange town for the birth of their child. This same little family would later flee to Egypt as refugees to escape tyranny, returning when things were safer. The child of that birth grew up to preach and practice a radical inclusivity and teach about a God whose hospitality knows no limits.
Jesus taught his followers to direct their energies to caring for the lost, the lonely, the little and the least; and that in so doing they would be caring for him. His short life ended, as it had begun, as an outsider. He was crucified ‘outside the city gates’ between two common criminals.
The fear and the ignorance which crucified Christ remains starkly apparent in our world. The fear of the stranger, the other. I recognise it in myself. Would Christ survive this world if he came among us again?
This Christmas, as we welcome Jesus, whom Scripture calls the Prince of Peace, let us recall that he was and remains, a disturber of false peace. That false peace which rests on injustice and indifference to the poor and powerless.
May Christ be born in us again to soften and warm our hearts in the exercise of compassion; to strengthen our will in the pursuit of justice for all; to sharpen our minds to distinguish truth from expediency; and to move our spirits to respond with praise, gratitude and joy to the presence of the Living God, incarnate in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Revd Alistair Macrae