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N Touch
Wednesday 20 June 2018
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Commentary

Christmas Presents and Christmas Presence

Debbie Jacob writes a weekly column for the Newsday. 

Once upon a time there was a woman who told her husband a remarkable story about a baby that no one thought she should have. She felt like the chosen one, and her husband, a simple man, felt special because of her. He was a rare man at a rare time and place because he believed in her and he believed in miracles. He did not care what people thought of his wife or of him.

They were not rich – at least not in a monetary sense. Their wealth came from their hopes and dreams. They hoped for a bright future even though they lived in volatile times under a government that made life difficult for them.

They lived on the periphery of society, but they had faith in God. You could say they believed in magic too. You could say they created their own sense of magic. Determined to shut out all of the negative voices bombarding them; determined to cast aside all those sending them unwelcome messages that suggested their lives would never have meaning, this couple embarked on a difficult journey. All they really wanted was to imagine a meaningful life for their child… As I sit by my Christmas tree during these peaceful, pre-dawn hours of Christmas day, I will be thinking about this story. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy the Christmas story because in many ways, it is the story of parents anywhere in the world who want to believe their children will grow up to find a special place in this world.

It is a story that resonates most in poor areas where mothers face great obstacles to provide an inspirational life for a child growing up in a place where life is a daily struggle. It is the story of that rare man who defies the odds to stand by his wife even though society throws hurdles in his way.

There is no romanticising poverty, but there is the stark realisation that in many places in the world —indeed many places in Trinidad—the only riches people have are the dreams and hopes they chase against all odds.

On this Christmas day, I think about how Christians celebrate the Christmas story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and I wonder how we have strayed so far from that simple, magical tale. Christmas seems to divide the haves and have nots: those who can afford a truck-load of toys and those who are left with nothing but dreams for a better life.

There are so many lessons wrapped up in that Christmas story. Open-mindedness and perseverance top my list. Christmas is not about crinkly wrapping paper and presents galore. It’s about Christmas presence: a feeling that no matter where you start in life you have — or should have — the ability to rise to great heights and be a voice in this world. Christmas is about a child who had parents who believed in him. It is our responsibility to care about every child in this country and give all an equal chance to be educated and respected. The Christmas story is not merely a single story celebrated on one day of the year. It is the beginning of the story of a special child’s life. The lessons of that life are not to be packed up or thrown away after Christmas day. Those lessons should follow us and inspire us every day of the year.

If you are a Christian celebrating the story from a religious point of view — or if you are a person who just enjoys a good story — you will realise that there was nothing special in that first Christmas except the birth of a child.

Mary and Joseph had a difficult time finding a place to stay.

They were turned away. They struggled. We are the ones who have taken this simple story, glossed it up and elevated it to its symbolic meaning. But it is only special because it honours a simple, difficult beginning wrapped in hope.

That spirit of giving that we have injected into this story should not stop after Christmas day.

We need to be more charitable. We should apply the symbolism of this holiday every day of the year by offering opportunities to all.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. May the spirit of Christmas follow you through the year.

May your day and year be filled with faith, charity and hope for a better future.

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