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A fulfilling Christmas joy

What is it that makes Christmas so beautiful, so cheerful and such a happy time, especially for children? It has to be the gift-giving, the time when children can look forward to receiving signs of love and care, as well as share a bit.

Children in some well-off families receive so many gifts through the year that getting more has no special impact on them. But there are the children in poor families to whom a gift at Christmas is a joy they never forget, because they have so little in this world.

And so that is what Christmas is about: a change of heart and mind when the rich and the well-off reach out to the poor to make this a more just and equal society. It is about caring and sharing.

It may not be much to ask, but with the millions of displaced children in the world today, hundreds of thousands who are hungry and starving, it would be duty, an honour and a blessing to be able to share with them.

To give from our abundance and not keep all for ourselves is the spirit of Christmas. But this is what should be with us all our lives—helping others, not just ourselves. It is a natural virtue to care and share with our own families, but to help the stranger in need is an act of great goodness and virtue. That is being the good neighbour.

A frugal Christmas is in order and we are challenged to have the courage and the love of neighbours and to stop and ask, “Who is my neighbour?” Well in case you have forgotten the important teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, I remind you that it is the traveller who was beaten and robbed and left for dead.

The rich politician and merchant came, saw him and walked on by. The simple traveller, an outcast—a refugee almost—of Jewish society, came by and helped the wounded man. He bound his wounds when others would not, just leaving him to die.

There are those who look the other way and walk on by. There have been at least 6,000 people shot dead in The Philippines since June this year, but few ask why?

We are challenged by the Christmas spirit to put aside lavish plans for big spending and upmarket parties.

Rather, the real challenge is to think of the wounded and the dying in the war in Syria. These are victims of the ruthless bombing of civilians, schools and hospitals by powers of violence.

We must be concerned that the United Kingdom has sold US$4.2 billion ($32.55 billion) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen, where hundreds of civilians, including women and children, have been killed.

Whether they were killed intentionally or not, it is still a war crime. It is like putting a sword in to the hands of King Herod.

The modern images of the Holy Family fleeing the evil king to seek safety as a refugee are present in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and South Sudan today.

If the family of Jesus fled to Europe today, they would be barred by an iron fence, barbed wire, a concrete wall baring the sign No entry, go away, you are not welcome here.

If you believe that is true, then you are wrong. Because there are values that are treasured by most of humanity and one of them is to be treated by others as we would want them to treat us.

That may sound selfish, but it is the bottom line. It may be the lowest level of motivation, but it is motivation. 

The higher value and greater motivation to help others ought to be simply because they are human like all of us. They have equal rights, dignity, humanity and God-given value and honour.

Christmas has a message for all of us and it is in the image of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the most revered of prophets and the Son of God, but he was born in utter poverty. He grew up, lived and worked in a poor family as a tradesman. 

Then there is the evil force of the Islamic State, which has captured and tortured many and still threatens thousands more with death, as did the Herod in his day, with the Massacres of the Innocents.

Are we going to close our doors and windows and deprive them of a refuge and safety?

If so, we are far from the message of Jesus and Christmas will be just a wild, meaningless party. We need to be renewed this Christmas by that message of love and sacrifice.

That is what makes this a special time of renewal when we can be happy in sharing and caring for those in great need.

That first Christmas was a hard time for the Holy Family. So make this Christmas a happy time for those fleeing war and poverty. 

They reach out for peace, sometimes just to survive.

A blessed Christmas season to all.


                            • Father Shay Cullen