Christmas. For most a season to share good times with friends and family, to relax and regenerate in the outdoors, and to give and receive gifts.
For many, it is a time to celebrate our faith and to recover from the many activities that celebrate the time of year – the work functions, school prize-givings, and the commercial pressures to spend, spend, spend.
For some, it is a hedonistic time of over-indulgence in food and alcohol, and the consumption of stuff that we want but do not need.
For a few, but still too many, Christmas has a downside.
A time of stress, resulting in a surge of domestic violence and disorder. Or of grief, consequent on the annual spike in the number of road and water deaths.
The increasing number of families queuing outside the Auckland City Mission for Christmas food parcels is a sad reflection of an unequal society. [Don’t be too sad – donate to the City Mission’s work at aucklandcitymission.org.nz or by phoning them on 09 303 9200.]
These are the human faces of Christmas. But Christmas is not only about the human race, as the song released in 1984 by rock band Queen, ”Thank God It’s Christmas”, reminds us.
This song brings God, and the birth of Christ, back in to the focus.
In an increasingly secular society, many question or ignore that focus and so an important message gets lost in the frenzy of shopping and partying. The consequence of our over-consumption and hedonistic disregard for the environment, is impoverishment.
Christians believe the environment was entrusted to human beings by God, who commanded us to cherish the earth. So care for God’s creation we must. Others lived here before us they argue, so we in turn must maintain it for posterity. Whatever your view of God is, christian or secular, this is an imperative to guide us. It is a definition of environmental sustainability.
How many will take the time to ponder the year past, the year ahead and to reflect on the climate actions needed to address the greatest threat to our existence on earth?
Actually, I meant to say, threat to our existence. The earth will out-survive us.
And contrary to the fanciful ideas of science fiction, nor the ambitions of Elon Musk to make human life multi-planetary, there is no way that we humans are going to escape this earth before the proverbial hits the fan.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis made an impassioned plea to all christians. He called for us to show mercy to our common home, to cherish the world in which we live, and to have compassion for the poor.
In my context, the pontiff is appealing for us to be sustainable (mercy), mitigate the causes of climate change (cherish) and for social justice (compassion). Please do your part to make it so. And have a cheery Christmas whilst you do it.