Very occasionally the world seems united.
We had that experience this year. People of every nation and culture focused on the same event: we waited with baited breath to see the outcome of the rescue mission of the Thai boys trapped in an underground cave.
That unity was not limited to the hope of survival for the boys. It was also about our shared human understanding that we can and should work together for the good.
Hope and desire for goodness is what Christians celebrate at Christmas. Through the birth of Jesus, God enters our human history as one of us. Jesus came to teach us that all human beings of every ethnicity, culture and religion, are brothers and sisters in God’s universal family.
To believe that is faith. Faith shows us that beyond natural justice there is something more: God’s divine way of love which unites us as one.
Another story not so long ago united the world, but for a brief time only. We have now largely forgotten it. Boko Haram kidnapped 271 girls to sell them into slavery. Yet for them, there was no international effort of rescue and half still remain enslaved. Perhaps their story seemed hopeless from the beginning? Perhaps it lacked the media driven thrill of a rescue mission?
Whatever the reason, the girls’ story is a stark reminder of what gets between us and the love God wishes us to bring to life in our world not just at Christmas but every day. Violence, corruption, and greed are perhaps obvious. They are easy to lay at the feet of others – crooked politicians, military, multinationals. But what about indifference, trivialization of human dignity, and any narrow sense of what matters to me? They are closer to home yet they too push off our radar screens God’s vision of our world, our neighbourhoods, and our streets as a community of sisters and brothers.
This Christmas, whatever your faith, let’s be stirred into action by hope and goodness. That’s what truly warms our human hearts. Pope Francis has called for a revolution of tenderness and service. You might want to put it in a different way. Whatever your response, the true Christmas spirit is about how you care, who you include; not about what you buy. Jesus came for everyone that we might be one. That’s already a gift of hope for each of us.
Happy Christmas! Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete!
Bishop Charles Drennan
Catholic Bishop of Manawatu, Whanganui-Waimarino, Taranaki, Tararua and Hawkes Bay.