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'Away in a manger...'

In a series of Advent articles, Rosemary Dawson picks up on the words of Christmas songs

Jesus himself became a refugee

GET your hankies out. It’s that heart-stopping, nerve-racking moment in the school nativity, when Josephs and Marys everywhere start to sing the most popular children’s carol of all time.

Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles have taken time off from their fran­tic shopping and wrapping to watch their young family members perform. Will the youngsters be fazed by the occasion and forget the words? Whatever they do, it is likely to go down in the annals of family history.

The final verse of ‘Away in a Manger’ includes the prayer, ‘Bless all the dear children in thy tender care …’, and there is surely no better time to remember the millions of children who will experience Christmas as just another day of hunger and suffering, homes and villages being destroyed, and family members being injured or killed. What kind of a world are they growing up in?

Compare it with the relatively safe, happy and secure world of our Josephs and Marys, and give thanks for what we have. Say a prayer for the leaders of nations seemingly intent on destroying everything in their path, that they may grow tired of war and start to build peace. Say a prayer for the children whose lives have been torn apart, that such hostilities and hatreds may not be perpetuated in their lives.

Jesus himself became a refugee. King Herod was afraid of losing his throne after being visited by wise men who were inquiring about a new king born in Bethlehem. He ordered all baby boys under the age of two to be killed. Joseph took Jesus and Mary to safety in Egypt to escape the massacre, not returning until Herod had died (see Matthew 2:1–16).

It’s ten days till Christmas. We still have time to drop some coins in a collecting box, help a good cause or write a card to an elderly neighbour. We still have time to help those who rely on the charity of others for a hot meal and a bed.

Rather than suffering from compassion fatigue, we could use this season of good­will to all people by putting the needs of others first.

We’re all God’s children – and some need caring for more than others.

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