A season for goodwill and gratitude

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2012, 3:58am

Christmas is a time for celebration, whether spiritual or cultural. It is also a time for reflection and, as usual for most of us in Hong Kong, gratitude. A look back at recent Christmas eves is testament to that. Four years ago, trepidation clouded this day as the world economy teetered on the precipice of the global financial crisis. A year later, there was more reason for cheer as virtually every market emerged shaken from a wild roller-coaster ride, ours in better shape than most. Fast forward to today and it all seems a bad memory, except for the legacy of debt and unemployment in the biggest western economies, while we fret instead about high property prices and whether wage rises are keeping pace with inflation.

We can count our blessings of peace, security and prosperity as we celebrate the birth of Christ, or just enjoy the festivities of gift-giving and feasting. But they can be too easily taken for granted. The Christmas message of peace and goodwill to all men and women has a deeper meaning. Our own good fortune should not blind us to the plight of others, including far too many in our own society, who struggle for the necessities of life, or to the sanctity of human life above all things. Remembering others less fortunate reflects the true spirit of Christmas, spiritual and cultural.

This is a reminder that the universal Christmas message evokes different feelings in different people, some of them personal and poignant, such as the absence of a loved one or treasured friend who has passed on.

We can only try to imagine how difficult this time of family reunion must be for those who lost loved ones in the Lamma Island ferry disaster, or the parents of the 20 small schoolchildren massacred in America's latest gun atrocity. It is well nigh impossible, from the security of our developed society, to empathise with people on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao where, for the second consecutive Christmas, survivors are mourning more than 1,000 people lost as they rebuild their lives after weather disasters.

The underlying seasonal message of goodwill to all men and women remains one of hope amid human conflict in so many parts of the world suffering tragedy. This resonates beyond a Christian audience, beyond the tinsel and commercialisation of Christmas, with timeless human values that make the world a better place. We hope it is reflected in a happy and safe Christmas for all our readers, their families and friends.