Day 23 – An Advent Reflection

John Ivory is a wonderful photographer. I love the pictures he takes. I used one in my last 10 Day You Challenge post. I asked him to send me one that he had taken around Christmas time, and give me his thoughts on it. I was not expecting this… amazing. Thank you John.

An Advent Reflection by John Ivory

Thank you John for this powerful image
Thank you John for this powerful image

The photo above was taken in Dublin’s Henry Street on Nov 25th, 2012 – the week before Advent. The streets were pretty busy. Christmas shopping was beginning to ramp up in the city centre.

One of the things that strikes me about the photo, both when I took it and even more so looking back on it now, is the movement – the passers-by rushing between shops to avoid the rain – giving a very real sense of this poor young man being ‘passed by’ in this world.

The sense of wonder and expectation of Advent we experience as children gives way as we grow older to a different experience. I’ll wager that most of us cherish the homeliness and comfort of winter nights by the fire, the glow of the lights on the Christmas tree, time spent with family and friends rekindling some of the spirit of our childhood Christmases, keeping the magic alive for our young folk. But where is the sense of wonder and expectation for that young, rain-soaked man sitting on the pavement in Henry Street this time last year? Where has that dream gone wrong – for so many people like him?

For over a decade, our country experienced unprecedented growth and prosperity – and all the excesses that go with that. Now that is over and where are we at the end of it? Statistics would suggest that we have more destitute people, like this young man, than in living memory, not to mention countless families who now live from hand to mouth. Hardy a legacy of which to be proud – and it is all too easy to blame politicians and bankers but I don’t want to stray off topic.

Where does the young man above fit in this scheme of things? How many of us, myself included, default to the position that it is someone else’s problem? It’s up to the government; it’s up to the charity organisations. When it comes to encountering poverty and need, I often feel like one of those blurry people in the photograph, rushing on by. Someone else will look after it.

What has all this got to do with Christmas? More precisely, what has become of the Christmas message? Peace and goodwill to all people. Our tradition of giving at this time of year is largely a material giving – but have we lost a certain sense of giving of our goodwill – and our time – to help create a better world for all? Our boom times brought out the best in us as a nation – our ability to make our mark on the world and succeed at a global level – but also brought out the worst in us – unprecedented greed (and perhaps most of us were a little guilty of it) which ultimately contributed to our downfall. More than ever, for the most vulnerable in society and to instil a true sense of social justice in our children, we need to demonstrate the selfless side of our nature. It is important here to remember the whole raison d’être for Advent and Christmas – to look forward to and celebrate the birth of Christ whose life message was love your neighbour as yourself.

It is all too easy to wonder what becomes of people like this young man. It is all too easy to ask questions – not so easy to come up with answers. It is all too easy to pose questions of the establishment. It is less easy to pose these questions to ourselves. If we are to take on board the true meaning of Christmas, then maybe Advent needs to be a time to ask ourselves some questions – such as, cutting to the chase at a personal level, what am I doing to ease the plight of this young man and the many like him? Instead of just passing by in a blur, is there something tangible I can do?

At the moment there is no blog to direct you to. If John listen’s to his Aunty Amo, he will get one up and running so that we can all enjoy his photos on a regular basis. I’ll keep you up dated.

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