When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.
Basil the Great
A baby is born into poverty, in a land under harsh military occupation. A baby who becomes a refugee before he can even walk, as his young parents flee the bloody crackdown of a dictator intent on crushing any dissent to his rule.
A dissident whose life is in constant threat when he returns to the land of his birth, both from the controlling powers and those who don’t wish to antagonize them. A controversial figure initially welcomed by a society which then turns and scapegoats him as soon as the prevailing mood changes.
Any of this sound familiar? Refugees, dictatorships, military actions against civilians – it’s all so very 21st century, isn’t it? But it’s also 1st century, because this is the life of Jesus Christ.
God is not, as some have thought him, far-off, uncaring, and content to leave us to suffer through life as best we may. (Though I am tempted to think that some of us have created God in our own image, to think him so.) The meaning of Christmas is God with us – with us in the pain, the poverty, the danger, all of it. God with us.
My best hope, wish and prayer for you is that God will be with you this year – in all of it.
“Giving is often the most efficient use of money. For example, $20 doesn’t even cover a dinner out for our family. If I invest $20 at 12 percent (unlikely in the current economy), in ten years it will be $65.99. If I give it away, that $20 could teach one child to read and write. That child could break out of the cycle of poverty in ten years. Or my $20 could provide chickens to a family. Those chickens could give hundreds or thousands of new chickens or eggs in ten years, saving the lives of children that might have died from starvation or helping a family have enough money from selling the extras to send their kids to school. How does that compare to a plate of pasta or an invested $65 dollars? [sic] It isn’t comparable.”
Lorilee Lippincott, The Simple Living Handbook