Christmas: The Gift of Empathy

Christ our Lord came to earth and lived as one of us so that we can also understand life from the perspective of others.

Ioften go back to my first Christmas memories in Canada to realize how disruptive the experience was. In Cameroon, my country of origin, I would not have been alone and lonely in the street on my way to church. I would not have gone to another church because mine did not have a Christmas Eve service. I would not have gone to my house on a bus without anyone or a stranger wishing me Merry Christmas! But there I was in Vancouver experiencing all these changes with only the Good Lord as my witness. But on Christmas day, my roommate invited me to join his family for their annual Christmas dinner.

From Joseph’s (Jesus’ stepfather) perspective, the journey to Christ’s birth revealed three critical steps that we in this Covid-19 context can relate, at least to two: Crisis, Disruption, Celebration (Mt 2: 9-12; Luke 2: 15-21).

Crisis (Mt 1:18-22): Imagine that you are about to get married, and you notice that your partner is expecting a baby. You are confident that the child is not yours. But you are a good person who does not want to shame your partner. So, you decide to break-up without anyone else’s knowledge of the matter. Suddenly, a gifted counsellor comes to you and convinces you to reconsider your decision, and you marry your fiancée.

Disruption (Luke 2: 1-6): You made plans for a home birth, having everything ready. As the delivery day is in sight, the government, without prior notice, requires you to go to another city for a census. Airplanes are not an option; cars are not available; hospitality venues are discouraged; you and your expecting partner must be creative to meet your needs. In faith, you go!

Celebration (Mt 2: 9-12; Luke 2: 15-21): In the end, you welcome the baby, and you realize that the child you’ll raise will change your life and the life of the entire world.

Well! Isn’t it in some form the story of our life during the pandemic? Hasn’t Covid-19 brought crises in our world? Haven’t we experienced disruption in every part of our society? So, what should we celebrate?

I will argue that Christmas is the celebration of empathy. God became flesh to experience life the same way we do. God decided to put himself in our shoes. God chose to walk the journey of human development.

With its crises and disruptions, the pandemic allows us to relate to a part of our TWU’s population, for which Christmas is often different. We, who have the fortune to have family members close by, will likely be singing Christmas carols with them online or attending a virtual concert; we may have fewer people at our diner table than the previous years. As difficult as it is not to have all of what makes Christmas Christmassy, and as hard as it was for Joseph not to have the birth of his first son the way he might have anticipated, we can find comfort in the fact that we are putting ourselves in the shoes of our students, staff, and faculty for which Christmas in Canada has always been like this Covid-19 Christmas. It might be beneficial for us to celebrate the opportunity which has been given to us: “unto the world, a child was born, He is Christ our Lord” who came to earth and lived as one of us so that we can also understand life from the perspective of others.

Emmanuel Denguessi is Academic Facilitation Specialist, Far Center Overhead for TWU Global. He was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and has lived in Yaoundé and Douala, Cameroon, Montreal, Q.C., Vancouver, B.C. and Langley, B.C. He currently resides in Abbotsford, B.C.