Natalie Williams
A stomach-churning dread of Christmas

How do you feel about Christmas? I love celebrating it, but I don’t like to think about it until December! I enjoyed spending Christmas in China during my year in Beijing, mainly because no decorations went up in shops until the 24th of December!
I’ve never recovered from working at Woolworth’s for four consecutive festive seasons in the late 1990s, when I was a teenager. It wasn’t just the busy-ness of the shop and the irony of people appearing to be at their most greedy and belligerent during the season of goodwill, but even now I wince at pretty much every Christmas song I hear after enduring festive music blaring across the store constantly from the start of October to the end of January.
My mild dose of ‘bah humbug’ to the early onset of Christmas is nothing compared to what others are facing this December. Take a look at the video below – for some people in Britain today, they can define the poverty they’re facing by the stomach-churning dread they feel at this time of year.
One man describes poverty like this: “Poverty to me is not being able to support my family financially and mentally at Christmas, with all the pressures of Christmas.”
A few seconds later a woman says: “My poverty problem is dreading every Christmas and birthday in the children’s eyes.”
Still another man says that poverty for him is “dreading the summer holidays and Christmas and everything, because not only do I have to find things to keep my children occupied, but I also have to feed them at dinner-time whereas when they’re at school they get free school dinners”.
Christmas can be the hardest time of year for those who are struggling financially, those who are lonely or isolated, those who are depressed, those who are out of work, those who are overwhelmed by debt...
But for those who aren’t any of those things, Christmas can be an opportunity for busy-ness, greed, materialism, over-indulgence and excess – or for compassion, generosity (with our time and our kindness as well as with money) and other-centredness.
Churches up and down the country are currently preparing meals for those who are homeless to enjoy on Christmas day, gift boxes for children (including refugees) who might otherwise receive nothing, foodbank parcels to help people keep going, helplines for those who are desperate over the Christmas season, and so much more.
But what about you? Jesus didn’t just ask the Church to respond collectively, but placed a responsibility on his followers as individuals to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the prisoner. What will you do to make a difference to someone who is dreading this Christmas?
How will you reflect not the prevailing culture of consumerism, but the Christian message of hope this Christmas-time?