BY DENZEL GAISIE
Christmas! A season of joy and festivity, a time for seeing and sharing with loved ones and feasting on turkey and mince pies while wearing a wonky Christmas cracker hat. The images we see, the music we hear and the TV we watch are all filled with a merry sense of hope for all. However, for many of our shelter guests and housing residents, this sadly is not the case. Christmas for many – especially those who come into contact with GrowTH – can often be one of the hardest and most depressing times of the year. Hidden among the Christmas lights that adorn our streets, there is hardship that many will experience during this season.
The suffering of those that are homeless can often be amplified at Christmas. They may be affected physically by the unrelenting cold. There may be emotional and psychological distress due to loneliness, depression and feelings of hopelessness. There may be a seemingly unshakeable addiction or a broken relationship. Some may be refugees who come to the country, separated from their families, fleeing persecution or war.
Where then, are they to find hope this Christmas?
Well, what is interesting about the birth of Jesus in the Christmas story is how unromantic it actually is. Yet surprisingly, there is hope to be found.
Though the birth of Jesus typically pictures Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus peacefully sleeping in a sweet, wooden barn with delightful animals around them, it is likely that Jesus could have been born in a cave where animals were kept, or a shelter that was built into a hillside. Whether in a cave or shelter, or even a barn, it’s likely they sat in straw, with the room elegantly fragranced with the scent of barn animals and their refuse.
Something else that is often left out of this birth story is the fact that King Herod, upon hearing that the Messiah, King of the Jews was born, was intent on killing the infant (Matthew 2:13). He ordered all male infants born in Bethlehem to be killed (Matthew 2:16), so Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus had to flee to Egypt, away from the real threat of death against the newly born Christ (Matthew 2:13-15). This story of violence reminds us of some of the stories of the refugees we have met here in the shelter.
The fact is, the birth of Jesus is not the sentimental portrayal we are used to. It is far harder to digest than your average Christmas special. Yet, because of it, there is so much more hope for the broken this Christmas.
So, how does this give hope to those who are homeless and downcast during Christmas 2019? Well, hope is found in this:
We have a God that has experienced and understands even the hardest of our situations, and he himself has come to bring us hope.
The story of Christmas becomes so much more important when we understand how Jesus, even in his birth, is able to relate to and empathise with those who may feel no hope. Jesus, God in the flesh, experienced what it’s like to be fully human, to be vulnerable and needy, to have his family flee to save his life (you could even say he was a refugee!). He is able to identify with those who are classed as outsiders, the poor, the outcasts of society.
What a Christmas joy it is to know that God Himself can identify with those who are having a tough time this season. Yet, He doesn’t just want to identify with us, but He wants to give life-changing hope!
What is this hope that he provides?
Well, Christmas is such a special time because Jesus was born in order that he might save us and bring us back to God (Luke 19:10). He was born so that he could live a sinless life, suffer and die, and victoriously raise back to life so that we can be made right with God, and in Him have true, eternal life.
This is our great hope this Christmas and we hope this gives you hope this Christmas, too!
Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New year.