What does Christmas mean to us..?
Stevie Wonder did his best to explain what Christmas means to him, mostly centred around the love of his life. I'm sure we could add a few more verses to include our own loves of the festive season (bond films, the Queen's speech, and my personal favourite - turning off the computer!). It has been a real eye-opener over the past few months to recognise how many young people are going to struggle with the festive season though, for a number of reasons...
1. Loss of a loved one
For many, this will be the first Christmas without a parent, sibling or close friend. We have mentored a small amount of young people over the years who are in the throes of bereavement and fortunately there is a wealth of professional support available in this region. But, no amount of support, counselling, advice and care will make Christmas any easier and our thoughts and prayers are with those who are facing their first Christmas without a loved one.
When my car breaks down (which is rarely) or my wife and I make our umpteenth excuse not to take up an invitation to a meal out with friends, I do find myself moaning about having 'no money'. The reality, of course, is that we have more than enough money to survive....if we didn't we certainly wouldn't have enjoyed a Chinese takeaway at the weekend or bought daft Christmas jumpers at Primark last week! For so many young people though, they live in a home where they have serious financial issues; Serious enough that there are no carpets on the floor and parents skip meals in order that their children can have a plateful. This is so wrong (and not for us to judge the cause of the situation). But, when these young people are surrounded by peers talking about the games console they're expecting for Christmas, or their annual phone upgrade to something costing more than my car (the reliable one!), I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those living in this inescapable situation of debt. The schools are really tuned into these families in need and have many opportunities to offer support from themselves and via third parties..but the reality is still there. While uniforms and school dinners can be covered, and we are blessed in this nation to have a variety of benefits available to us, it still doesn't cover many of the simple pleasures we take for granted, and which make Christmas so special to us. Roast Turkey? Presents? A Christmas tree? What would we miss over Christmas?
Vicki (my wife) and I alternate Christmas between both sets of families, meaning we clock up the miles over the two-week period each year. We also diarise a multitude of catch-ups, Christmas drinks and meals with friends & extended family, to the point where we're knackered by the time we go back to work (in a good way!). The stark contrast is that, while I muster up the energy to fill the car with suitcases and presents in order to visit family a few hours away, there are so many young people yards from my house who have very few to celebrate Christmas with. Additionally, some may find themselves in the middle of an acrimonious separation between parents to the point where they don't want to be in either home, staying in their rooms for most of the holidays.
Quite simply, there will also be many young people who aren't in the right frame of mind for feeling 'Christmassy' for a variety of reasons.
I'm sure, while reading, you can think of other reasons why Christmas will be a difficult time for many this year. This isn't meant to make us feel guilty about the great times we will be having over the coming weeks, rather to help us appreciate all that God will be blessing us with. But what can we do? PRAY. Pray that God will reveal Himself to those who seek Him, that He will be the answer to all of their questions and that He will be the provider of all that is needed over the coming weeks.
Finally, please also pray for God to show you how you may be able to help those in need in our communities. Bereavement support, FoodBank, Salvation Army, voluntary work...we are abundant with talents and time between us...let's give is to those who need it.
I hope you have a really amazing time over Christmas. Thank you so much for your support of CYO this Term, and we cannot wait to get back into the swing of a new term in January.