Good news in a dark time
For carers who found this month’s budget brought no good news, it matters little whether Pope Benedict thinks the angel sang or spoke that cold, dark night – they want to know if they are going to hear any good news this Christmas. For the family that cannot pay the mortgage this month, it matters little whether the pope thinks there were cattle in the manger in Bethlehem – they want to know how they can hold on to their home. For the mother who is the sole carer for a disabled child, it matters little whether the pope thinks the child in the manger was wrapped in swaddling clothes – she needs to know who is going to help meet her needs and the needs of her child.
A Christmas Eve dream
The cold-heartened response of some to those who are suffering most at this Christmas time almost echoes the words of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol when he sees the afflictions of poverty in his Christmas Eve dream. A charity fund-raiser says to him: “At this festive season it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute ...” “Are there no prisons?” asks Scrooge ... “And the Union workhouses? ... Are they still in operation? ... Those who are badly off must go there.”
Yet it takes a small child to get to the heart of the meaning of the birth of a small child in poverty that first Christmas. Charles Dickens brings together the needs of a small child and the call to respond with the love of Christ at Christmas time when he portrays Bob Cratchitt taking his son Tiny Tim – who walks with a crutch – to church on Christmas morning: “‘And how did Tim behave?’ asked Mrs Cratchitt ... ‘As good as gold,’ said Bob, ‘and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember, upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.’”