A few years ago, I came across this image of a young refugee and child fleeing one of the world’s never-ending combat zones, looking for some place of safety and shelter. There is the distant look in her eyes, with slightly anxious look on her face, searching the horizon, hoping for a safe haven; a place to rest and protect the child she carries. As a mother, she holds her child securely, with bottle at the ready, to offer her child some sustenance and comfort along the way. I do not know their particular story, or what has happened to them, but their story has re-told in millions of different ways since that photo was taken in 2009. Sadly, this is an image of Madonna and child for today.
We have witnessed the long trail of refugees flooding into Europe. We were touched, saddened, shocked and prompted into action by the image of the poor Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed ashore on Turkish beach, wearing the clothes of our children or grand-children. We live in a world where almost 60 million people cannot go home because of conflict and war.
We will soon re-tell the story of a young mother and caring father, escaping to Egypt to protect their new born son from the wrath of a murderous king. This ancient story has been re-lived continuously ever since, with a dark, stinging accuracy for war-weary generations. If we scratch the surface of the Christmas story, we dig down into the realities of human darkness and Divine Light. Underneath all the tinsel, and all the glitter, and all the flashy lights, and all the wrapping paper, is the story of how God comes into the most human of situations – even the darkest of nights – and gives hope, if only as a spark of trembling light, a small and tender flame. Perhaps we can stand before the stable, and see not the image of fairy tale, but the gift of God’s presence amongst all our human turmoil:
The Christ of the first Christmas is no longer a child;
He has grown up; he has risen from the dead.
But his place is taken,
The manger is filled with other Christs.
What do I see when I kneel before the Christmas crib?
He is no longer a cherub-like Christ
Who is enfolded in Mary’s warm arms.
He is an infant born a refugee;
A Christ-child with disability;
A Christ-child abandoned, deserted of love;
A Christ-child bloated from hunger, eyes empty of hope.
Am I spoiling your Christmas?
Only if Christmas is a refuge from reality.
Only if you and I don’t show by our actions that –
That new life, God’s life, is born in us.
Only if you and I fail to realise that the most Christian of gifts,
the most human of gifts is to bring hope into the eyes of the hopeless.
After all, isn’t this why the Son of God took our flesh,
Shivered in Mary’s arms, had no place to rest his head.
He took what is ours, our flesh and blood, only to give us what is his, a share in his Godlife.
With Christmas blessings, Fr Anthony
|Jun 24, 2016||4th Sunday of Advent 20.12.2015||Listen||Download|