For some, it’s a matter of scripture – for others, simply a matter of conscience and compassion.
What we celebrate this month is the birth of a child to a refugee family. Even though that birth took place 2,000 years ago, the circumstances have a distinct resonance when we contemplate the plight of similar families from the Middle East this week, this hour… this very minute.
While we may forever argue for or against the divinity of that one child so many years ago, we cannot ignore the positive symbolism of celebrations of that birth. And we must acknowledge the higher instincts of selflessness that move the human heart, even in the midst of the desperate confusion of war.
Whether we accept the Christmas story as historic fact, a tenet of faith or simply a story, there is inspiration in the tale of a family caught up in the political turmoil, tyranny and prejudice that swirled about them. And there is a deeper truth in the notion that, even though there was “no room at the inn,” some kind souls – their names lost to time – offered the expectant couple shelter in the relative security of a stable.
Such caring individuals exist today. They are in abundance, even at a time when we are exposed daily to the worst that mankind can embody.
Their spirit is evident in every unsung kindness. It persists in those who sacrifice their safety to protect us, those who feed the starving and those who help others battling illness or the deadly risks of addiction. It is alive in the better instincts of each of us, whenever we pause to help those less fortunate, or even express simple appreciation for those around us.
And it is alive in those whose generosity extends to welcoming others – no matter where they come from, or what they fled – to their table.
For some, narrow and unswerving interpretations of history and scripture create immovable boundaries between us and un-erasable limits on what we are – and are not – prepared to do for others.
But the deeper message of ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all’ underlying our celebration of Christmas cannot be limited by such borders. It transcends all faiths, ethnicities and alliances.
In the end, it matters little what ideology we attach to acts of goodness, merely that those acts will continue long after we are gone.
That is the true significance of our celebration – and our heartfelt wishes for the year ahead.