For us, Christmas this year will be a happy one, spent with family and food and excited children. There will be presents, there will be turkey, there will be crackers and tinsel and carols on the stereo.
As we were coming home from a Christmas Eve carols service at church a couple of hours ago, my 7-year-old asked that we stop for a minute and think about those experiencing a different kind of Christmas, as the minister at church had suggested.
So we stopped, and I thought:
- about the family of my dear friend from my first mothers' group, who died in June of a malignant brain tumour. Her children, aged 7, 5 and 2, are facing their first Christmas without their Mum.
- about the people injured, killed, stranded, orphaned in the Christmas Island tragedy. I thought about the agonies that those parents must have faced to be be driven to take such desperate risks.
- about the victims of war everywhere in the world; the dispossessed, the brutalised, the murdered.
- about the countless women, some of them wearing the faces of my friends and my relations, who have suffered violence, degradation, humiliation and harassment at the hands of men. I know too many, too many, for whom Christmas is a season to be endured for its capacity to trigger awful memories or worse yet, repeated violence as alcohol loosens both tongues and inhibitions.
- about the children who are not, as my children are, secure - children who are precariously balanced between starvation and survival; orphaned or abandoned; or loved and cherished but by parents who are unable by the accident of their place of birth to provide them with anything, even a safe place to lay their heads. What's Christmas in that context?
I thought of them, and I will still think of them, tomorrow when the shining faces of my happy, well-fed children greet me, when we open gifts and exchange embraces and sing together. And I will be thankful for the Christmas that I am privileged to have. I will not squander the simple joy that I am able to feel. I will not take it for granted, and I will not forget my obligation to act where action is in my power for those whose Christmas is one of broken hearts, not overflowing ones.
Merry Christmas to you all. May it be full of every bright blessing.