Advent Firesiders

Tradition and Today ii (2013)

I like snow, at least on the day that it falls but I can never forget my wife's gentle reminder that joy in the weather for me brings grief for the street sleeper; and even though I can't control the weather and am therefore enjoying the snow as a gift, I know what she means.

It is part of our tradition to parallel our Christmas generosity to those we love with generosity to those we do not know which is why our Christmas cards are quite rightly delivered together with appeals from charities, from charities for the UK homeless to those seeking our financial support for a chicken or goat for a community in a developing country.

But surely we should go further than that. There is no time of the year when our own good plenty is more sharply contrasted want than in the weeks leading up to Christmas: not only are we more deeply conscious of poverty in our midst but also of unimaginable poverty beyond our shores. Although the impromptu donation is no doubt welcome, surely this is the time, preparing for the new year, for a thorough examination of what we have and what we stand for, a time for the standing order, the determination to do something lasting.

If we think carefully about what we are preparing for we will soon cut ourselves free of the Christmas card sentimentality of the occasion. Jesus was born in a strange town, in an out-house of an inn or a cave - take your pick - in a country suffering foreign occupation and domestic tyranny and, according to Matthew's Gospel at least, his family was forced into exile to escape Herod's slaughter.

For his sake.