For several years, my family and I lived in Southall – “little India” as some call it because it is home to thousands from the Indian sub-continent. One of the most enjoyable times each year in Southall is Diwali – the Indian festival of lights. It’s a time of family, food and lights.
Families and friends get together to eat loads of Indian food and then set of fireworks outside. I have never seen so many individual fireworks going off as I’ve seen in Southall on the night of Diwali.
But there’s a difficult dark side of Diwali as well. Because Diwali is a time for family and many in Southall are away from family – it can be the most depressing time of year. One year we as we walked around there was a commotion at the train station and we found that someone had committed suicide by stepping in front of the train. This is not completely unusual as the Southall train station has more suicides than any other station in the UK.
But you don’t have to be an recent immigrant to feel the pain during holiday times. The Christmas season brings parties and dinners with co-workers, family and friends. At those gatherings we realize that we don’t really like some of these people. Or memories flood in of the close relative who is not going to be there this year. Or maybe we’re just not invited to the parties, and this deepens the loneliness we feel.
Christmas IS a joyous time. But this deep joy in your soul does not come from seeing the lights, or getting the present you always wanted or even being together with family. These are good but they are not enough.
Even in the best of times, with the best parties and best presents and best family gatherings, we will be left with an ache. A feeling that something is not right – that it could have been better. There should be more happiness; deeper love within the family; and friendships that are more open and honest.
We are all faced with problems, but they are not child-like problems. And the solutions are not child-like either. At Christmas we celebrate that God has broken into our reality to bring us hope – a hope that is rooted in the reality of a child born in a manger 2000 years ago.
Isaiah 9 predicts the birth of a baby who will bring hope. Joy will come because this child will bring the end of war and oppression. He will rule “with justice and with righteousness.”
Hope comes not just from the baby, but from the fact that this baby grew up. He grew up to be the king. The King of Kings who “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4
That is wonderful. That does bring hope. This is a wonderful time of the year.