What does Christmas mean to you? Is it, as the adverts suggest, a time of candlelight and beautifully-cooked meals among loved ones? Or is it a time of tension, struggles, and perhaps loneliness? Having seen Christmas cards and decorations in the shops for three months, by the time that the big day arrives, you may simply be fed up of the whole thing.
However we feel about it, Christmas is in fact the time of most incredible hope, and it’s a particularly hopeful message for the 271,000 families in the UK facing homelessness and the 2,447 people who are sleeping rough.
This is because, in his birth, and in the early years of his life, Christ utterly identifies with the homeless. We have sanitised the idea of a child in a manger, but this is a profound statement of love and identification. The Son of God is born far from his family’s home, under armed occupation, without a roof over his head. His first night on this earth is spent among the animals stabled at an inn at a frantically-busy census season.
This is followed by threat to life. Herod’s troops are on the look out for him – a threat to the established rule – and warned in a dream, his father Joseph moves the whole family to neighbouring Egypt. They become, if you like, early asylum seekers, simply to keep Jesus alive.
God not only cares about the families who are experiencing or facing homelessness in the UK right now, as the cost-of-living crisis mounts, he’s lived it.
As we stop at the end of what may have been a busy, or tiring, year, this is a profound idea to reflect on. God knows. God cares. God has lived it.
This is at the heart of all our work among those living with homelessness. It is the driving force behind wanting to see change in this country, with a system of trauma-informed care becoming nationwide, so that everyone has the chance of recovering from homelessness and never returning to it.
We wish you a very Happy Christmas, and the knowledge that, whatever you are experiencing, God is with you in it.
David Smith, CEO Oasis Community Housing