Columns

The things about Christmas we don't talk about

Sunday, December 31, 2017

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The Christmas season is easily the most celebrated season in the world. As fall dawns you begin to sense, even in nature, a change in the environment. Things begin to take on new meaning; from the heat and often boisterous summer to leaves falling on the ground to be clothed again in spring. It is even better if one escaped one of those terrible hurricanes that often assault the Caribbean in August and September. The carols come, signalling that the joyous season has begun. Merchants and assorted peddlers of every ware have their expectations raised as they anticipate a great season. It is that time of the year when the red ink that has been flowing on the books is expected to become black. Green, as a sign of prosperity, would be even better.

Even if one did not make any conscious preparation for the season, one looks forward to having a good time, regardless of the strength of one's pocket. Whatever the religious prognosticators may think about it, people will not allow themselves to be denied fun at Christmas. And neither should they — if they do so in a respectful manner.

But with all the fun that many have, there are still people who do not see all the fun in Christmas. To those who are addicted to life-depleting substances, such as alcohol and hard drugs, Christmas can be a time of struggle. They are conscious of the existential threat of these substances to their health, yet they find the season summoning them to have a good time; to have happiness now and regrets later.

Also, Christmas for some can be a time of extreme loneliness. This is particularly true of the person who has lost a loved one, especially during that year. In a crime-stricken country like Jamaica we are talking about 1,500 family members whose lives have been snuffed out by that most horrible invention of man called the gun. Incidentally, why is such a weapon of mass misery just a three-letter word?

The country may not be able to reckon with the psychological consequences of murders on a society so small. It is not as if we are big and are thus able by size to absorb the grief of such killings with any comfort. Indeed, no large society could. As a small society, such incidents leave deep scars on our collective souls. So it is not just the economic consequences of crime that we should be concerned about, but all the debilitating, negative social and psychological consequences of it.

And, like politics, crime becomes very local and personal to the ones affected by it. That is why many of our brothers and sisters will hold up a brave face this Christmas, but deep down in their hearts there will be mourning. They will be looking at empty chairs and spaces once occupied by their loved ones. Some will miss the laughter, the joshing around, and the uncanny moments. Others will still be in a daze as they contemplate the illogicality of a particular killing against the background of the great future that was reposed in that life.

Apart from the families of the victims of murder, it is for the elderly that I will say a special prayer this Christmas. They are often the forgotten ones. It is good that individuals and organisations take a special interest in this demography at this time. In nursing homes, the infirmary, and other places of abode, the elderly need to be shown that they matter, even if they are not able to physically or mentally appreciate it.

I am old enough to know that the “Christ” in the mass celebration of Christmas, like the elderly, is often forgotten. The sensuous rhythms of the season often do not lend themselves to the trite and supernatural presentation of a saviour whose birth in a nondescript part of the world is being insisted upon. Hedonistic pleasures and the joy of money jingling in the pocket, the stock account, the till at the checkout counter, the round robin on a rural street, and the rum and sorrel to be imbibed cannot bear the humbug of angels announcing a mysterious birth.

Yet, the eternal truths of Christmas cannot be ignored. As I have written before, the significance of the event is not about a date of birth. It could easily have been the first day of January for all I care. What is important is the message. The message, if you can believe it and grasp it by faith, is that at a time of his own appointment, God sent forth his son to become incarnate among us. This demonstrates that God cares desperately about us; that his anger against sin and its debilitating consequences have been answered and fully satisfied in Jesus Christ, the Lord; that God through his Son has established the parameters for peace and goodwill among all people. It is the truth that justice and righteousness have kissed each other. It is the truth that unconditional love is still the cornerstone of any prosperous society. A merry, yet restful Christmas season to you all.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or stead6655@aol.com.

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