CHRISTMAS 1987 comes after a year of disasters. Those who have escaped death, injury or serious illness, for themselves or for their families, can be duly grateful.
The Zeebrugge ferry tragedy touched hundreds of lives. The hurricane force gales brought widespread hardship. The Kings Cross fire still haunts our memories. Famine in Ethiopia is horrendous.
In adversity, the Christian has no alternative but to cling more closely than ever to Hope. Where else can he go?
We will be reminded this weekend that the life of Jesus was accompanied and closely followed by disaster and setback. The reminders come in the liturgy.
No sooner has the joy of Christmas itself been celebrated than the Church reminds us of kLath in the form of the martyrdom of St Stephen. The main incident from Our Lord's childhood, which is then brought to mind at this time is the massacre of the Holy Innoce 's. ve know little about the exact history of this mysterious event but we do know that the world into which Christ was born was full of evil and what today would be called dangerous power politics.
We can be thankful that the East and the West seem to be marginally nearer to a true determination that there will never be a nuclear holocaust. But we can scarcely forget that the writers of the Old Testament, in describing Noah's Ark, were conscious that something very like a nuclear explosion had at some moment occurred, perhaps spontaneously arising from an aberration in nature. It was because of man's complacence that he was visited by natural disaster.
We, too, in our materialist age, are trying to construct, through our politicians, a Tower of Babel. We imagine we need no God to be able to rise above things of earth, conquer space, and all the rest. It is just at such moments that disaster can strike and we are brought face to face with the uncomfortable fact that we are not after all nature's masters but its slaves.
The AIDS virus has thrown us into utter confusion and many thousands into despair. It is not a question of God's vengeance. There is no such thing. But there is evil in the world, and it cannot be conjured away by drugs or indifference.
When tempted to have little faith in traditional beliefs — that is the very moment to cry "Help Thou my unbelief." Christmas is the ideal time to turn to Heaven for help. For none is immune from temptation and weakness.
Jesus the baby was weak and could do nothing for Himself. But He was to conquer death and sin, though not without much suffering, many disasters and an apparent moment when He had been forsaken and left entirely alone.
Alone before the crib each person can see himself as he really is. It is an important, perhaps very precious and helpful, moment of self-recognition.