Thoughts on Christmas 2023



It's 9 December 2023 and the shops in Caerdydd are crammed, the trains overcrowded and parking impossible.  On St Mary’s Street, people are marching, calling for the end to violence in Gaza which has left nearly eighteen thousand dead.  In a smart cafe, remote from the chaos outside,  Christmas music is playing on a loop and  has just reached (again) Chris Rea singing about coming home for Christmas.


Celtic pagans celebrated the winter solstice as the moment when the sun starts to come back.  The early mediaeval church adopted the solstice and gave us Christmas.  Both festivals carry messages of hope and renewal.  Prince Albert, the Victorians and Charles Dickens did much of the rest.  In 1931, Coca Cola gave us the image of Santa Claus we now share. The Western World rises annually to  this blue-print we’ve inherited and continue to craft.  In Caerdydd, at least, people heed the call. 


How would it be celebrated if we recognised Christ as a brown-skinned Judaeian  Jew, whose family fled and became refugees in Egypt, to save the Christ child  from being slaughtered on Herod’s command?  They became strangers in a strange land and it was years before it was safe to come home.  Home to a place where a generation of young boys had lost their lives in infancy.


This Christmas, Israel is driving into the sea those Palestinians who live cheek by jowl in the confinement of the Gaza Strip.  It's a cleansing of biblical proportions.  In turn, Israel has been stung, but not beaten,  by Hamas’s attacks and kidnappings.  In the land of the Old and New Testaments, the story is not one of  peace amongst men.  


This time, tinsel could not be more irrelevant, even more so the catchy ‘It's Christmas’ yell from Slade.  What remains is the midwinter hope for renewal. For finding a way to reach out in love and understanding.  For coming home to compassion in ways, it is believed, the brown-skinned refugee would advocate.

© Gaynor Kavanagh