Today, on day 9 of the Christmas novena, particularly in the light of the destruction of typhoon Sendong, the homily asked: why should we continue to celebrate Christmas? Why all this joy in the midst of all this suffering?
The reflections in it were the initial inspiration for this poem. Later in the morning, thanks to a friend who teaches in a school on an Indian reservation in the US I was reading some truly horrifying statistics, which, coupled with the experience of inequality here, and the thoughts already floating round in my head inspired verse 2. (http://www.nativevillage.org/Messages%20from%20the%20People/the%20arrogance%20of%20ignorance.htm)
In the midst of very visible poverty here, verse three speaks of a very different kind of pain, which is no less real, and of which my own experience has been no less real either. Some of those who find themselves struggling with difficult situations and finding it hard to see the light of the end of the tunnel are also very much in my mind right now.
Yes, we should still celebrate Christmas: not by getting into debt, not by pushing and shoving in a supermarket queue, not by competing with the neighbours for the best display of decorations, not by wasting half the food we have stocked up as if for a siege; but by choosing to stand alongside those who need to see that flickering starlight.
I hope the glimmer of hope that shines in the last verse is shining for all of those who are remembered in the preceding verses. I wish them all a very Merry Christmas.
As the flood waters rise higher
Washing lives and hopes away
Alone surrounded only by ghosts
No chance to go, no reason to stay
When all you had is gone
What is the point of this Christmas day?
With no education, no healthcare, no job
When you dream of what could have been
In the midst of a land of riches
Where poverty and despair go unseen
As one of the have-nots in a land of haves
What can this Christmas celebration mean?
For those trapped in a situation
From which there seems no way out
When you see more cruelty than kindness
Even your own worth you start to doubt
If life is a place of anxiety and pain
What is this Christmas feast all about?
Let us still celebrate this Christmas time
To promise a glimmer of hope is in sight
Because this is why the Christ child came
Saying I want to be with you in your night
He came to the destitute, the deserted, the distraught
So let this Christmas shine as a fragile ray of light