It’s obvious when you think about it, but sometimes it needs to be spelt out: the Christmas story is one of refugees fleeing their homeland at a time of persecution.
We trot out the familiar lines of Jesus being born in a stable because there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn, of the warning in a dream to leave the country and the flight to Egypt. We decorate and romanticise the stable in crib scenes with manger, but the reality would have been horribly different.
It took a Christmas carol service in the heart of London’s Mayfair last week – a carol service that pulled no punches – for me to make the connection between the nativity story and the multitude of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict, war and persecution. The penny dropped and it started to dawn how little has changed in two millennia.
We talk of escaping the commercialisation of Christmas and getting back to its true meaning. Perhaps it’s there in the headlines we’d often prefer to ignore, wishing the problems would go away. And perhaps the Christmas story is relevant to all of us, whether or not we consider ourselves Christians or attend church – at Christmas or at other times of year – and whatever our beliefs.
This sounds a rather sombre final entry of the year, more bah-humbug than ho-ho-ho. But I wish you all a very happy Christmas and I hope that 2016 is a healthy and peaceful one for you wherever you are.