Every December I have the privilege of helping Black Santa for a few hours outside St Anne’s Cathedral. What I particularly enjoy is the opportunity to chat with so many people as they pass by. The people of Belfast are philosophers, and the world is put to rights as they go past.
One of the things many people said this year, as they often dropped large sums of money into the barrel was ‘Thank you for doing this.’ I thought to myself, people are actually saying thank you to us, but they are the ones giving the money!
What I think they mean is this: ‘Thank you for giving us a channel to make a difference to people in need in this city and beyond’. And there is no doubt that, since Dean Crooks started it at the height of the troubles in 1976, Black Santa has done just that in a very committed and powerful way, becoming one of the major Christmas traditions in the city.
One of the roles churches and Christians have often exercised is finding a way to enable a better world to be seen, even in the midst of difficult times. And I want to say my ‘thank you’ this Christmas to all who give hours of work, energy, creativity and vision to blessing those for whom this time of the year can be tough: those who run homeless shelters, agencies which help with debt, vast numbers of foodbanks, Christmas dinners for elderly people… and the list goes on.
They are all following in the footsteps of Jesus, who became God’s channel to make a difference for humanity. He gave up everything for us, and as we give ourselves and all we have to him, we do it with that same ‘thank you’ on our lips. It is a ‘thank you to Jesus Christ for making the vision of a new world possible and for opening the way to forgiveness for the past, a relationship with God now and eternity as our future.
Down and Dromore