Nine days to Christmas, just after Gaudete Sunday was celebrated yesterday. We are supposed to rejoice, in the sure knowledge that Mary was expecting and in 9 days time, we will be celebrating one Event which was to shape our World, change our Calendar system, altering forever the course of Mankind’s History. There is much to celebrate, or rather, there should be plenty to celebrate and with good reason. For the first time in the History of Mankind, God approaches us in an altogether different way: He is to become one of us and share with us our Humanity, complete with all that is good, all that is not so good and also with all that is truly bad.
It comes as a surprise then that it does not really feel like a build up to a celebration. Life right now, seems a burden to just too many people, as Advent and Christmas gradually become devoid of the sacred historical events these two seasons represent, to become simply a great opportunity for Commerce to make a healthy revenue and retain a decent profit and for us to be bombarded with commercial ads, loud music in the supermarkets, and the ever ubiquitous Christmas Tree going up as early as beginning of October as a reminder to us all – Hellooooo?!… Time to start spending your money dear! NOW! Please?!… The “please” bit always comes at the end of the screaming call, if ever! Typical and just so in the spirit of Christmas… Not!
But I must insist; it all feels almost depressing and not like Christmas at all. The whole thing, the frivolous excitement of buying lots of presents, wrap them up and shove them under the tree, lots of tasty food, which will make us sleep for most of Christmas Day afternoon and before we even notice, it is all gone. Half of the food was eaten, the other half was superfluous and really not necessary. The wrapping papers scattered about the floor, presents all over the place, Boxing Day come and gone and there we are back at work, feeling a strange sensation that it was all but a dream of some sort and we woke up at work, confused and heavy-headed, and no better than we were just 72 hours earlier.
This year is different though… It feels worse. There is anger, expressed everywhere, talk of crisis and of fear, of impending threat all around, of intolerance and venomous resentment against Europe, and against Europeans, and against Muslims and against Jews, now it’s the Scots rocking the boat, and the Irish too… The venom, a torrent – truly an unstoppable torrent – of hatred, racism and generalised intolerance has taken hold of Britain.
This year in Britain, the Christmas Tree has been planted on a keg of gunpowder, then placed by the fireplace. And everyone with a responsible role to play appears instead to be blowing into the fire in the fireplace, unaware it will only take a small spark to blow the lounge to bits. There are literally no adults in the room, apparently.
And everyone is turned inwards, back against back, desensitised by the looks of it, to the essential notion that their celebration of Christmas is actually about a couple migrating from Nazareth to Bethlehem, on top of it they bring the donkey and a third mouth to feed, a baby unborn but likely crowning, the waters broken and absolutely nobody is willing to help them, offer a room at least, so the child can be delivered safely somehow. Mary must have been absolutely desperate in pain since as we know, the minute She and Joseph, plus the donkey were all dumped into a stable, Jesus was born soon after.
And who came to the stable mostly?… A few shepherds, perhaps some common and poor people living close by and later three men of Science and Culture. The rich blasted their front door on the face of this poor family of migrants from Nazareth, those who could have afforded to offer a little more help did nothing too and those who though not rich, were a bit better in life, had probably social aspirations alas incompatible with basic charity of helping a pregnant Mother.
The 2000-year gap does not eliminate the similarities between the attitude towards Joseph and pregnant Mary, and the behaviours shown here and now, towards many people. Indeed the sad and bitter truth is that we might as well bring Joseph, Mary and the unborn child to modern day Britain. They fit perfectly the lives of similar families. Families who once lived and survived the Grenfell Tower fire, or families who migrated from Syria, Romania, Bulgaria and other deprived areas around the World.
And the issue?… The issue is Love is at best selective and elective. It comes into being when we come in through and slam the door shut behind us; and it ceases to exist the minute we get out the door into the street. In other words, there is no Charity in Love, in modern society. And yet, Love is ubiquitous in modern Western society, it is a word used and abused all over the radio waves and TV series, and pop songs and whenever it suits the trade agenda, such as Valentine Day. Love, love, love! We incessantly talk about it, but practice very little. Western love is self-centred, selfish, individualistic and targeted at the things and people we elect to be loved. It is not universal Love. It is private love.
Just today in conversation with someone, something came up and we talked about family and kids… And my conversational counterpart came up with this: “Young generations just have all they need, they do not need Jesus and all that stuff!”. Small statement, but actually translates into the Elephant in the room. As a secularised society, the West values the individual, self-focused, turned inwards and its boundaries make the concept of love as an inward thing. This is not Outward Love, looking out to others, Universal gift of Charity and loving compassion and care regarding others, not the others we know, but the others whom we do not yet know, never met before, who are strangers to us. And because the modern concept of love shrunk to a simplistic notion, the generous and all-giving Love of God, turned into the Son of Man, the One given to us for our Redemption, fails to resonate because it is more complex and harder to grasp by a society who understands love very differently.
It is then no surprise, that we find all around us, people capable of loving their own, but whose love is compatible with deep-seated hatred of the other, the stranger, the unknown foreigner, the unknown who owns nothing and so on. Love as a Universal Gift from all to all and anyone, has ceased to be so for many people.
It is sad and tragic that Christmas no longer seems to be a celebration of Universal Love, God’s Love, but has turned into an expression of personal love, co-existing in the micro-cosmos of the little world of our dwellings, only shared with the restricted world of our own.
The danger is it is creating a hollow, a vacuum, and this void is being filled by hatred and intolerance.
This year, the best Christmas present would be a collective change of heart across Society, a renewal of the true value of Love, Universal, tolerant and without limit. Without it, we risk a downspiral of conflict which ultimately benefits nobody.