“Are we doing a Christmas lesson, sir?”
”We are. We are going to think about what Christmas will be like for lots of people.”
Using video clips from a BBC programme about the work of the Maundy Trust in Lancashire and a Trussell Trust video about the the work of the food ban in Stroud, we talked about poverty in the United Kingdom.
There was a discussion of how best to respond to people’s need, but from some of them there were suggestions that homeless people weren’t really homeless, but they were people who went out on the streets to make money. Among the claims were that there was a man who had no legs when begging one day was seen walking through the park the next day. It seemed unlikely that people who believed such absurd stories would ever be convinced.
There will always be people who are never convinced, even when presented with the truth.
16th December is a date when people begin to recall an unpleasant story.
In Spanish-speaking countries and in the Philippines, today is the day of the first of the Misa de Gallo, the nine dawn Masses leading up to Christmas, Masses celebrated to mark the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
The tradition is that they took nine days to make the 145km journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The tradition suggests that they travelled just sixteen kilometres, or ten miles a day, it seems slow progress, but on rough roads, with a young woman who was nine months pregnant, perhaps those who began to mark the tradition were being realistic.
The Christmas story has little that is pleasant about it. Mary is a teenage mother, perhaps no more than fourteen years of age. Her neighbours would have gossiped about the circumstances of her pregnancy. Tongues would have wagged. Mary would not have been seen in a favourable way, she would have been thought an undeserving young woman.
The arrival in Bethlehem is inauspicious. There is nowhere to stay. Affluent people would undoubtedly have found somewhere to lodge, but Mary and Joseph are poor. They would be among those who might find help from charitable trust today.
Listening to the comments, I wondered if the Christmas story was presented in its reality, whether some of the young people would respond with a similar scepticism and dismissiveness.
It was not a Christmas lesson that some of them really wanted, not thoughts about the sort of people for whom Jesus would have cared, it was an hour of Disney videos.