When I get to this time of the year I usually start looking forward to getting the Christmas edition of the Radio Times or eagerly wait for the first play of ‘Fairy tale of New York’ by the Pogues on the Radio (Only then can Christmas officially start).
I love Christmas and it is easily my favourite time of the year but I am feeling a different kind of emotion this year. I’m still excited and I’m still looking forward to spending time with my family but something is changing in me this year.
As a kid Christmas was a time when the world stopped and everything became wonderful. Whatever crap was going on in the world it stopped for a few days so everyone could be part of this wonderful time. That’s how my mind thought it was anyway.
And it’s only been in the past year that I think I realised properly and in a real way that’s not how it goes.
The breakthrough came for me earlier in the year when I saw the documentary ‘The Rescue’ from Invisible Children.
(If you have never heard of Invisible Children head right over here now and read and become aware.
Very briefly, ‘Invisible Children’ is working to end the abduction of children who are being forced to fight in a rebel army called the Lord’s Resistance Army.
At the end of last year and start of 2009, 620 civilians were murdered and 120 children abducted over a two week period, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of these attacks occuring over two days.
And what were those two days?
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 2008.
If you are reading this I want that to sink in. Hundreds of innocent people were brutally slaughtered and their lives changed horribly forever over Christmas.
That’s not even a year ago.
I don’t know about you but when I think about that, it wakes me up to what’s going on in the rest of the world.
I can remember what I was doing on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day last year like it was yesterday.
I was working on Christmas Eve and probably complaining about it. I thought my life sucked. Earlier in the day I met up with friends for our now annual Christmas coffee meet up. It was great. Christmas Day was near. I was getting to hang out with good friends. Enjoy coffee and good times. I was excited to go to Church the next Day and feel all Christmassy. Not to mention all the amazing food I was going to devour.
In a jungle in Africa, kids were being torn from their families and hundreds of innocent people were being physically mutilated, raped or murdered.
On Christmas Day I went to Church. I enjoyed the Carols. I enjoyed my friends. The Christmas treats afterwards were to die for. I hung out with my cousins at my Grans and had a great time. I opened presents and I ate well. I laughed and felt warm inside and I can say I was pretty happy.
In a village in Africa, parents were mourning the loss of their children. Still alive possibly, but chances are may never see again.
I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty. The truth is Christmas is a time when we should be with family and friends and we should be celebrating. But for a lot of people they aren’t. For many kids last year, Christmas Eve was not about being excited about seeing Santa, but about being terrified of seeing the LRA.
Just because we are having a great time at Christmas doesn’t mean everyone is.
But I think we can make a difference this year.
I think we can make a sacrifice this year so someone can gain something. There are lots of ways we can help. We can give someone a gift they aren’t expecting. We can give a child a home. You can raise awreness about something evil that could happen again this Christmas, by getting your friends round and telling them about abducted child soldiers and using your gifts to help.
Or you could just have coffee with a friend and let them tell you what they are going through.
Whatever it is. This Christmas my challenge to myself is to remember the world doesn’t just stop for two days. And then to take action.