Monday, 19 December 2016

What is Christmas all about?

The sight of people on the street in the freezing cold, huddling up on park benches seems an increasingly regular occurrence  in 21st century Britain.

Still one of the riches countries in the world yet more and more people go to food banks, whilst a drumbeat resounds throughout the media for vilification of the poor.

Alongside this world of growing poverty another exists, which is that of the wealthy. They spend ludicrous amounts on food and presents to celebrate Christmas. The largesse is grotesque against a background of poverty and suffering.

Then there is everyone else, many of whom also seem to think to celebrate Christmas requires spending a huge amount on stuff.  People flock into the shops, many stony faced as they march down the shopping aisles filling baskets and trolleys with the good required (or not) for Christmas.

It is difficult at times not to think Christmas has morphed from a religious celebration - marking the birth of a child in a manger - into some sort of retail gorgefest, whereby everyone has to spend – many not really knowing why – supposedly to satisfy the need for retailers to make huge profits. It is a duty to spend because otherwise what will happen to the bottom lines of those companies.

Christmas is a religious Christian festival yet stretches beyond the world of faith.  When it is at its best is when the spirit of generosity comes forth from people across the world. People reach out to neighbours and help those less well off than themselves. Christmas is a time for giving, for charity but not a time for forgetting.

Helping the homeless is not just for Christmas. Christmas should also be a time to reflect as to why so many people are homeless in the fifth biggest economy in the world. Why do more than a million people go to food banks in a country of 150 billionaires? Why are there outpourings of concern about refugees, yet little concern as to the role of this country in fuelling such crises with arms sales around the world.  The compassion of a country like Britain has to be measured against its role as a major arms supplier.

So yes Christmas is an important time for celebration of all that is good but it is also important to remember the suffering across the world. Remember the role that we as citizens of the UK play in the maintenance of a massively unequal and unjust world. Then try to do something about it.

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