In his annual Christmas reflection, ANDY HAMILTON SJ writes that in a time of uncertainty, the things people often do at Christmas can be a source of strength. This is particularly pertinent in a time of climate change, COVID-19, the dangers of war and rising interest rates and their threat to housing.
The public mood at Christmas this year is one of uncertainty. The catastrophic floods have demonstrated the effects of climate change. The Ukraine invasion and tension with China have illustrated the dangers of war. COVID continues to remind us how precarious is our public health. More immediately, we face a year of rising prices and interest rates and their threat to housing. The effects of all these things will fall most heavily on people less able to bear them. They include many people in our Jesuit Social Services community.
In a time of uncertainty the things people often do at Christmas can be a source of strength. The gathering of families and friends to eat, drink, talk and play embody the solidarity on which we rely in hard times. The altruism expressed in volunteering and in the Christmas appeals for ill children and other causes anticipates the generosity on which so many people on the margins of society will rely next year. This year the excess and sentimentality often associated with Christmas have been trimmed down.
Among the gifts that our many origins and backgrounds are to Jesuit Social Services, is the original Christmas story of the birth of Christ. It is part of our Catholic heritage. The story speaks powerfully to the uncertainties and anxieties of our day. It tells of God’s coming into human life, not as an Imperial figure intent on conquest and security, but as a vulnerable baby born in unfavorable circumstances. These include an exhausting walk for a pregnant mother, shut out of accommodation and so giving birth in a field, forced flight to Egypt as a refugee to escape a murderous king, and – amidst the joy and promise of birth – omens of future pain. And in the midst of these things the story is one of great hope for the world.