As we approach the holidays and a welcome break, Christmas has many different meanings. For some it is a celebration of the birth of a promised saviour, for others a chance to acknowledge the love of family and friends or simply a time to relax and replenish before another busy year. Some find this time of year lonely and empty as it highlights what they don’t have in their lives. Irrespective of each person’s experience, what can we take from the Christmas story?
What is the Story?
This is a story of a young couple, expecting their first child who are forced to leave their home due to a government decree. After arduous travel they arrive at their destination to discover there is nowhere to stay and the mother’s labour has begun. Due to the kindness of an innkeeper, they are accommodated in a stable and the baby is born. Despite the poverty of the circumstances the baby is welcomed by angels, by shepherds, by kings.
What Do They Bring?
One way to read the story is as a parable for what every child needs and deserves. The baby is born in a safe, warm, and protected space, for a short time, at least, he has a home. The baby is visited by the shepherds who bring a lamb; he and his parents will have food. The kings arrive and they bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; he has some valuable and special things that are beyond necessities. Above the angels rejoice; they delight in him.
At the Centre is the Family
This is a baby conceived by an unmarried woman. She marries and her husband becomes the baby’s father who protects and nurtures both woman and child and makes space for the mother and newborn. She sits at the centre, gazing with wonder at her child and offers her baby the first gift of a secure attachment.
Yet with all the celebration and joy there is danger. King Herod has heard of the child proclaimed ‘King of the Jews’ and orders that all boys of less than two years be executed to rid himself of the rival. The family must flee to protect the child in a dangerous world.
For those of us who work with children and their families the story carries meaning that relates to our work. Every day we aim to create the conditions that allow for the best possible outcomes for children, from the material, food, housing, shelter, and protection from danger to the emotional and relational. The Christmas story may give us hope that sometimes with the support of community and friends these things can be achieved.