Christmas story inspires hope over adversity - Ewan Aitken

A member of the public walks past a poster featuring Father Christmas and Wee Jimmy Krankie on Leith WalkA member of the public walks past a poster featuring Father Christmas and Wee Jimmy Krankie on Leith Walk
A member of the public walks past a poster featuring Father Christmas and Wee Jimmy Krankie on Leith Walk
In some ways I prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Just to be clear, I do like Christmas Day too – it’s not a good/bad thing, it’s more a good/very good thing.

I like Christmas Eve because, at least in our house, there’s time to think about what it’s all about; what it all means and why it is a precious time. Sure, there’s plenty going on; I will do a lot of the pre-meal prep including the brussels sprouts which take forever, but there is some space for stillness and refection on what makes this time of year meaningful.

You don’t have to be religious to see the actual Christmas story as one of hope over adversity and the power of hospitality, generosity and reciprocity. In tough times hope is what can see us through and we have seen in these tough times the difference generosity, hospitality and reciprocity have brought to communities across the nation; people looking out for their neighbour and the stranger. The number of people who have gifted their time, money and talents to Cyrenians during the pandemic has been incredibly moving and I know many other charities have experienced the same phenomenon. It is something I very much hope we as a nation will not lose once this pandemic is over.

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The well-known but perhaps slightly unusual gifts of the Christmas story, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are metaphors for the underlying hope of the story; symbolising the hoped-for change in everyone’s lives which the events of the first Christmas would mean. They were gifts about long-term change for the better.

When I think about what we hope for at Cyrenians, it is long-term change. The dream is we would cease to be needed; the time when we all have what we need to flourish. Sadly, although good progress has been made in recent years, the time when we won’t be needed is far off and between now and then there are people in crisis or in danger of falling into crisis who need others to journey with them so they can get to a better place. It’s why in Cyrenians we talk about tackling both the causes and the consequences of homelessness. We try to get “upstream” and help stop the crisis before it happens as well as be there to help when it does.

Last year we journeyed with over 13,300 people, many of whom would not have seen themselves as homeless but were in a situation where, had they not been enabled to change tack, homeless was a real possibility. They include young people struggling at school, families in conflict, people a long way from employment, older people who are isolated, people in recovery from addiction, folk with mental health challenges, people with experience of the criminal justice system, people in poverty, veterans and many other groups who, without early support, might end up in a crisis where our other services become involved.

All year round we receive the gift of journeying with many folk who, when given the opportunity, are able to take control of their lives in a way which makes homelessness less likely. Each one is a step, a gift, towards us no longer being needed. It is a long journey but one well worth travelling in hope. Happy Christmas

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