And goodwill to men

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It was the first Christmas Eve. Mary and Joseph wandered the streets of Bethlehem, perhaps in desperation. All they needed was a place to stay. A simple lodging was all they sought—but seemingly their luck had run out. There was no room—anywhere.

Were it not for the generosity and compassion of the innkeeper, Jesus’ life may have begun on the streets. Through no fault of His own, the unborn Christ was on the edge of homelessness.

But these are more than statistics; these are real people and real families who much like Christ’s family, are in need of generosity and compassion.

Framed in this way, we come to realise that compassion, generosity and justice are integral parts of the Christmas story we celebrate—that Christ’s affinity with the poor and marginalised, the lonely and the abused began at birth. 

And if we are to really celebrate the meaning of Christmas in its fullest, that same sense of compassion, generosity and justice should be just as integral to our experience at Christmas.

Recent statistics indicate 35,000 Australians sleep on the streets or in temporary shelters every night. And close to half a million of our own neighbours will celebrate Christmas alone—having no family or close support network to call on, at Christmas or any other day of the year. 

But these are more than statistics; these are real people and real families who much like Christ’s family, are in need of generosity and compassion.

Melissa* wandered the streets in a haze, the stinging refusal of her request for help still ringing in her ears. 

She literally had nowhere to turn. Her purposeless walk took her passed an ADRA community centre. The green and bright orange facade caught her attention. 

“Maybe they can help,” she wondered hopefully.

Inside, she recounted her story. Melissa was a migrant to Australia who had just been abandoned by her husband of 15 years. He had left her to be with another woman in their home of South Africa.

She was left with the uncertainty of not knowing how she would survive financially and emotionally. With no family, no support network, no employable skills and not qualifying for government assistance, Melissa was truly alone. The bills began to mount and frustration, anger and desperation rose within. 

More than the hurt of losing her husband, more than the difficulty of being a foreigner, the pain Melissa felt most was not being able to provide for her two young daughters. 

The staff and volunteers at the ADRA community centre took her in and listened—they cared for her physical needs by providing food parcels at times when she could not afford to eat, and connected her with a supportive local church network who, through the centre, helped with rent assistance. The staff also cared for her emotional needs and provided a network of care she could rely on. 

Their efforts were touches of Jesus’ hands and feet when Melissa needed them most. 

The modern carol “I Heard the Bells” highlights that though we sing about peace and goodwill, when we open our eyes, suffering, injustice and sadness surround us. 

Its final lines read, “then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor does He sleep, the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men”. 

Christmas is the time to reach out to those, like Melissa, who are alone, who need encouragement and who deserve to be shown Christ’s love during a season centred on Him. 

This Christmas we have the chance to right wrongs, to spread peace on earth and goodwill to men. You can help families in need through ADRA’s Christmas gifts. Purchase gifts from the ADRA tree in your church, school or organisation, or order online or via phone before December 20, to receive your Christmas gift tag before Christmas day. Visit <www.adra.org.au> or call 1800 242 372.

*Not her real name. 

Braden Blyde is communication coordinator for ADRA Australia.