What We Cannot Do and What We Can
The old adage that 'history repeats itself' cannot be more true this Christmas as we read of refugees fleeing to safety from tyrannical situations in their homeland. Terrorists have been successful in causing death, destruction and fear in many nations. In some countries the poor are being taxed to the point of penury with food banks becoming their local grocery store. This leaves me with a heavy heart because there is little I can do on my own to comfort those in such physical and emotional need.
Within our home communities there are some adults and children facing danger, terror and poverty in their own homes. Abusive relationships, childhood abuse, and bullying are frequently reported on television, often because of the severity of the trauma and sometimes because of a fatal outcome. Again I am left with a heavy heart because, although I hear of such problems, there is little I can do by myself, to protect vulnerable people.
Addictions of all types are eating away at society on all social levels, usually with devastating consequences for families. No one can help the addict until they are prepared to admit to their addiction and want to change. We are helpless.
Thank goodness there are agencies and institutions that are willing and able to do what an individual cannot do. The Salvation Army is renowned for its social services world-wide; and it is presently involved in work with refugees, providing havens for women who have fled from abusive relationships, and remedial work with addicts. Specialized children's agencies are able to take care of the physical and emotional scars of abused children, and there are telephone help-lines for children who are experiencing bullying.
Toy banks are set up in many towns and cities to provide a present for children who may not otherwise receive a Christmas present, and the homeless are offered shelter over the festive period. Many churches provide a warm welcome and dinner to people who would be alone at home on Christmas day, and neighbours care for those in their local area who may be lonely.
So far people are happy to step up to the line at Christmas to help people physically and emotionally, but what about their spiritual well-being, what about our own spirituality? The frenetic pace generated by the perceived needs of Christmas, often leaves out the real meaning of Christmas. Decorating, gift wrapping, food preparation, carol concerts and parties are all time consuming and exhausting, leaving little time and energy to maintain our spiritual vitality. Unless we approach the celebration of the birth of Christ in blessed communion with God, we merely are going through the motions. Only we can do something about our own spiritual health.
Listening to frothy Christmas music and even carols can feed our childish emotional needs. The familiar words of the Christmas story can pass through our mind without us stopping to consider what they really mean to us as mature Christians. Yes, we celebrate the birth of Christ, but who is the Christ we are following? While on earth He was a radical, challenging rigid religiosity. He brought to those who followed him a fresh understanding of God and provided us with means of full communion with God. In Christ we have the perfect role model.
During Advent perhaps we should leave the images of a baby in a crib until Christmas Eve and consider more the birth of a new understanding and experience in our spiritual lives. We can set aside a time each day to consider what changes may need to occur in our understanding of how Christ would react to the many problems in the world today.
Mrs. Irene Ogilvie-Wilson
Former SA Missionary Officer (Pakistan)
Disciples of Jesus
Trained in Canada
From: Glascow, United Kingdom