Five ways to share the Christmas spirit this season – whatever your faith!

Christmas is almost here! But what’s it all about? And what does this mean for non-Christians? Well, I spoke to my colleague Gideon to find out. Here’s what he had to say!

gideon
Gideon Gasinu, Methodist Church UK

In eager anticipation, we wait with enthusiasm to celebrate the Holy Season! But what is all the anticipation, joy and excitement that surrounds the festive period known as Christmas about? Why is this time so special for us?

Well, recorded in scripture, Luke recalls: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (2:11). Yes, for the 2.1 billion Christians across the globe, Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus Christ – our saviour whom we believe gave His all in death for the salvation of all. As Christians, our faith teaches us that he loved us so much that he died for each and every one of us. The meaning behind the Christmas season is therefore one of selfless giving.

Take the word “Christ” out of Christmas and you are left with the letters “m”, “a” and “s” – sounds a bit like M&S – the popular high-street retailer known as Marks and Spencer! Jokes aside, the festive period is one of lots of shopping and gift buying yet this is where the season can loses its real essence.

Admist the parties, Christmas decorations and presents, we are called to remember Christ and the importance of giving oneself for the benefit of others. The reason for the Season is therefore not all about shopping and celebrations but the message that as Christ gave Himself to us, so too are we called to give. So, with that in mind – what are you giving this Christmas?

Merry Christmas! Shalom, peace and love to everyone! 

Getting into the spirit of giving this Christmas

Thank you Gideon! I think we can all take some inspiration from the message of Christmas – whatever our faith or non-faith background. Giving for the sake of others is so important and if you’re living in a country where Christmas is widely celebrated, it’s also a great time to reach out to friends, family, neighbours and the wider community in solidarity.

So with that in mind, here’s Voice of Salam’s top tips to give in the spirit of Christmas this festive season!

1.  Welcome refugees

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In the story of the Nativity, Mary and Joseph were forced to leave their home in Bethlehem and seek shelter in Nazareth. So, why not recall the refuge message and support refugees and asylum seekers in your local area? For those awaiting a decision on their asylum claim, life can be particularly challenging, so a helpful, friendly face can go a long way.

You could help with English language classes, befriending activities or simply support newly arrived families looking to settle into your area who may attend your local mosque, church or community centre. Find out more about the services in your area and how you can help here across the UK through the Refugee Council and Refugee Action.

2.  Help the homeless

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As Mary and Joseph were looking for shelter, so are an estimated 4,800 people across England who are sleeping rough – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Add those who are living in temporary accommodation or relying on friends and family for somewhere to sleep – plus those affected in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and the numbers rise even shockingly higher.

However, you could be someone’s saviour in their time of crisis! By working at a local soup kitchen, cooking or buying food for the homeless, handing out care packs for rough sleepers or simply lend a sympathetic ear to someone living on the streets, you can make a real difference. What’s more, if someone you know is homeless, you might be able to offer or source a spare room or sofa for the night and offer some stability during a period of intense hardship. For more information about how you can help, contact Crisis UK.

3.  Be a (younger) friend

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Loneliness – especially amongst the elderly – is on the increase. In fact, out of the 3.6 million people in the UK who live alone, two million of these are over the age of 75. Add to this the fact that 1.9 million of the UK’s elderly say they “often feel ignored or invisible” and we’ve got a bit of a problem on our hands!

Given these figures and the fact that the festive period is often spent with friends and family, it’s an obvious concern that many elderly people may be (feeling) alone at this time of year. So why not be a friend to those in need of a bit of company? By reaching out to elderly neighbours or joining activities aimed at supporting our elderly population against the effects of loneliness, you can make someone’s days a lot brighter. Find out more about how you can help through Age UK.

4.  Lend a helping hand at home

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If you celebrate Christmas in your family, with friends and family over, presents to sort and meals to cook, there’s a lot of pressure on people to get everything in order –  in particular for parents, mothers and hosts. This can be incredibly stressful and sadly (but understandably) even a source of conflict.

By offering to wrap presents, help out with the food shop, cooking or even babysitting the little ones for a few hours, you could help make things a lot less stressful and far more enjoyable for everyone. So get stuck in!

5.  Shine a light in someone’s darkness

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With so many people looking forward to parties, family get-togethers and perhaps even a holiday abroad away from work, many people are obviously very happy and excited for the next few weeks. Yet for so many people out there, things seem a lot bleaker.

Did you know that 1 in 4 people in the UK are affected by mental illness in any one year? Some of us may be feeling a little blue from the lack of daylight, financial pressures or family clashes but for those with diagnosed (or undiagnosed) depression, anxiety or other similar conditions, just getting through each day can be a struggle. This Christmas, be the support that a friend or family member may so crucially need. Listen to them, let them know you’re thinking of them, cook for them when they can’t even face getting out of bed that day and support them in whatever way is best for them. Find out more about their condition and how you can help via the Mental Health Foundation‘s website.

Remember folks: the gift of love, friendship and humanity is the best gift of all.

Salam, shalom, peace!

About the author

gideon.jpgGideon is a lay preacher for Methodist Church UK and an engineer by profession.

Passionate about helping others, he recently joined the founder of Voice of Salam on the Sacred Activism programme at St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, working with Help Refugees and Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais to support refugees on the ground in Northern France.

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