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To consider that Christmas is not always a happy time for everyone, but that the birth of Jesus gives Christians and other people hope.

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To consider that Christmas is not always a happy time for everyone, but that the birth of Jesus gives Christians and other people hope.

Preparation and materials

  • You need some appropriate music for the reflection, possibly ‘Peace on Earth’ by U2, or a traditional carol such as ‘Silent night’.
  • You will also need a candle.


  1. I am sure that many of you are really looking forward to Christmas. You’re counting down the days on your advent calendar, you have written your lists for presents and distributed them to everyone who might wish to see a copy, and you are busy thinking of what to buy friends and family yourself. You are looking forward to the end of term, and a holiday too. Some time to spend with your family, and enjoying just relaxing and having a rest. You all have your plans and traditions for Christmas Day too, no doubt, and either look forward to them or worry that maybe Granny might have a little too much sherry before lunch!
  2. I wonder if there are any of you here who might not be looking forward to Christmas so much? It’s OK, I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands, but if you are dreading the festive season, don’t think that you are the only one, because you most certainly are not. Maybe it is because you have to choose who to spend Christmas with this year? Do you spend it with Mum or Dad? But then one of them might get upset, and you don’t want that. Maybe you recently lost someone close to you, and you know that this Christmas will not be the same, they will not be there. Is it possible that your family argues with one another over Christmas?
  3. You only have to look at the Christmas editions of the soaps to see that all manner of things can go wrong at Christmas time. If there is a secret to be found out, then it will come out at Christmas and have disastrous consequences. Houses will burn down, accidents will happen. Christmas, you see, is not always a happy time for everyone. Did you know that the Samaritans, a charity that deals with suicidal people, is at its busiest on Christmas Day? Think of the people who are alone, on the streets. Think about families that live below the poverty line so that children will not get their visit from Santa this year. For them, Christmas won’t be a happy time. I think we should realize that for some, Christmas is not all about singing carols and being jolly. There are times, for us all, when Christmas will not be the best that it could possibly be.
  4. I have not painted this picture in order to make you feel miserable; on the contrary, I would like to use it to talk about the idea of hope at Christmas time. Although not everyone will feel it, Christmas is the ultimate season for hope. We could start with, ‘I hope it will snow,’ but in this context and in the context of Christmas, Christians see the birth and coming of Jesus as something to be truly hopeful for.

    In the Bible, the Gospel of John talks about the people in darkness. I guess we could consider the lonely, homeless and the bereaved and think of them as being in the dark. Jesus is seen by Christians as the light of the world. We all know what lights do to darkness: they make it go away.
  5. Jesus was special for many reasons, but his birth gives us some real ideas of the people that he was to bring hope to. First, he was born in a stable, not in a palace. This shows that he was a normal person, not someone that we cannot get access to. In fact, being born in a stable is incredibly lowly; remember that there was no room at the inn, and no one really wanted to help. What highlights the lowliness of Jesus is the arrival of the shepherds to the crib. These were no wealthy or important people, but good honest men doing a very important but menial task. These two things have great symbolism behind them. They show that Jesus had come to earth for everyone: the poor, the destitute and the lowly. It shows that each person is as important as the next, with no differentiation between the poor and the rich.
  6. Throughout his later life and his ministry Jesus spent time with those who were seen as the outcasts of society, and those who were deemed to be of less importance because of their lack of status. It is important then that he starts his life with such people; so he is born in a stable and placed to sleep in a manger. Even his father, Joseph, had the respectable but manual trade of a carpenter.

    It is this connection with those people who are poor, or who lack money or status, that should give hope to those who feel that they have nothing. They have Jesus standing for them in their corner.
  7. What about the bereaved and those who are alone? Jesus knew loneliness later on in his life, and although the wise men did not arrive until later, they hinted at the death and sorrow that was to come for Jesus with their gifts.

    So there is hope for everyone, not only in the fact that Christians believe that God chose to come down to earth as a human. To experience all the things that make us human, our sorrows, griefs and pains, but also our joys and happy times.

  8. Christmas is a time of hope for all, and when you are pleased with your presents, and full from your turkey, please spare a thought for a person who might be alone, for the family that is no longer whole, and for the hungry; but also for the tiny baby in the crib, who would grow up to be the man who died on the cross. The tiny baby that brought hope and light to those that had none.

Time for reflection

Light a candle and listen to the music.

Think of anyone you know who will not enjoy this Christmas, for whatever reason.

Ask God to be close to them.

Now decide what action you could take to help that person to enjoy their Christmas more.

Publication date: December 2009   (Vol.11 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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