Christian Comment with Canon Tom Gunning of The Immaculate Conception Church, Stroud

God amid the familiar

DO YOU associate Christmas with memories of Christmas past?

I’m not thinking of Scrooge and the Christmas Carol but of films and stories I have seen and heard which we see and hear again at this time of the year.

One such delightful story is “Papa Panov’s Special Christmas”.

It is Leo Tolstoy’s adaptation of a French folk tale.

It is set in a small Russian village where Papa Panov has a cobbler’s shop.

The old shoemaker is a widow who has a dream that he will meet Jesus on Christmas day.

When the day dawns, a road sweeper, a poor mother and child and beggars pass his door and are welcomed in and helped by him.

Papa Panov later closes up his shop convinced that Jesus has not kept his promise.

Then he sees the poor people in his room and they whisper to him, “Didn’t you see me, Papa Panov?”

Then he hears the voice of Jesus who says; “I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in everyone of those you helped and welcomed.”

This story brings Christmas away from Bethlehem to our own homes. Jesus was born in a poor stable and he came to bring Good News to the poor.

Jesus teaches us that when we feed the hungry, we feed him; when we visit the sick and imprisoned, we visit him.

As we give and receive gifts this Christmas, Jesus is asking us to think of the poor in our midst and in the wider world.

He didn’t come so that we could dust off our crib, display it in our home and put it back in its box after 12 days.

He came to show us that God is Love and we love him by loving our brothers and sisters, particularly those in need.

May you all enjoy this Christmas season which can bring hope into many lives through your love and generosity.