The time for end of year celebrations has arrived. For many people, it will be a period of relaxation, family gatherings and spending time with friends. Flower-embroidered tablecloths will be spread. The food will be special and the wines delicious. Everyone will perhaps eat a little more than they should but hopefully not to excess. It’s great to have the opportunity to celebrate.
For others, however, Christmas is a painful period when loneliness, isolation, and poverty make themselves even more strongly felt. As happens each year, some people will opt to join the most disadvantaged and isolated, offering to share their company over Christmas and the New Year.
They will transform their presence and attention into a gift. Perhaps, a derisory or futile offering in the sense that there is little chance that it will contribute to a lasting improvement in the lives of these “little ones”, to borrow a Gospel phrase. Yet, if we think only in these terms, we imprison ourselves in a logic of performance and effectiveness, which leaves the poorest people at the margins and ignores those who lack the necessities of life.
To be truly human, a society needs men and women who are capable of giving freely. Giving freely is the response that God himself makes, becoming one of us in the form of a new-born baby snugly swaddled in cloths, lying in a manger.
It seems to be such a derisory sign. Yet it is an invitation to look at the world differently. As Pope Francis reminded us in his encyclical Laudato Si’: “To stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities that life affords, to be spiritually detached from what we possess and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack.”