Christmas is a time of great joy and hope. We celebrate the birth of Jesus in the humblest of beginnings and the message of liberation and salvation that he proclaimed.
Of course, Christmas is not a time of celebration for all in our community.
For many, it is a time of great stress and worry, compounded by the burden of expectation of being seen to be doing all of the Christmas things: giving presents, holding feasts, being happy always.
We know that homelessness does not end at Christmas, nor the anguish of those struggling to make ends meet and find a meaningful job.
For those languishing in detention while escaping persecution, just as Jesus and his family were forced to do, the message of hope can be hard to see.
But as Jesus called on us to be a neighbour to each other, we do see tremendous acts of generosity and goodwill during this season too.
Society members will be sharing hampers with families; they will be volunteering in our places of welcome for those fleeing domestic violence; sharing a cup of tea while providing a roof over someone’s head and, no doubt, sharing a smile and a tear or two along the way.
The Society’s great strength is in the many men and women who work, volunteer and give generously of their time and talents, recognising that they are brother and sister to those they meet.
They recognise the dignity of all and seek to celebrate it by walking together, sometimes along difficult and winding paths.
Their efforts are what moves community from a word or slogan, to a place of great hope and joy, even in difficult times. They give expression to the blessing ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord’.
Thank you to all of those who serve, both in giving and in receiving, may you have a hope-filled Christmas.
Graham West is the National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia.