Posted: 19 December 2015

Advent: A story of ultimate hope?

Andrew explores the power of stories to convey hope, or lack of it, this Christmas in our Advent calendar blog.

 

Our outlook on life and our attitude isn’t something that forms overnight. It’s something that evolves over years, impacted by our experiences in ways we probably don’t notice at the time: a compliment here; a role model there; an aspiration, or perhaps a painful experience we’d rather not repeat. When we look back on our lives, we might be able to pick out particular milestone moments, but it’s in the everyday, small decisions we often make on instinct that we rely heavily on our past, our outlook and our general attitude. 

The way we celebrate Christmas will often be based on tradition, shaped by the decisions and experiences of family, with each of us having different things we particularly look forward to. I know someone who goes with friends to fell their very own Christmas tree and enjoy the fruit of their labours once it is (eventually) transported and transformed in their living room. One family I know eat their Christmas lunch together on Christmas Eve, so shift-working family members can take part. Another friend’s family wait until the Queen’s speech is finished to eat their Christmas lunch.

Similarly, our outlook on Christmas is shaped by many things - our faith, our eternal hope in Jesus Christ, for instance, might lead us to spend some of our energy, time and concern on the many who are less fortunate than ourselves. And then there’s our general attitude - are you a cheesy Christmas music fanatic with the same CD on repeat from the beginning of November and presents bought and wrapped before Advent has even started, or do you put the blinkers on and live in denial until the very last few days, leaving all the Christmas shopping to the last minute?

Christmas is, of course, just one part of each year in our lives. As I think back over the past couple of years, I’m struck by the difference a couple of years has made, time and again. The Christmas story though, endures - a story of ultimate hope. A reminder that even in the most desperate of circumstances, hope can always be found.

The difference hope can have - and a couple of years - is astonishing. Take Jemma’s story, for instance.

Jemma’s story

Jemma is like many of the young people that The Children's Society helps through its work. Her childhood was difficult and was defined by domestic violence, her mum’s mental health problems and her dad’s alcoholism.

At 14, Jemma developed an unhealthy relationship with a 20 year old man. She regularly went missing for days at a time and was sexually exploited. She started using legal highs.

Things hit rock bottom when Jemma was 16. Still with the same ‘boyfriend’, she was now heavily dependent on drugs and was self-harming. She tried to commit suicide.

Jemma’s social worker was determined to help. Jemma received further support from a drug and alcohol service and a mental health service. She made amazing progress, starting to understand her vulnerability and how she had been exploited.

Jemma is now 18, in education, gaining confidence and no longer taking drugs. Thanks to the consistent, dedicated support when she was 16, Jemma has a bright future.

It’s not OK that so many children living in our communities are vulnerable to abuse, harm and neglect this Christmas, and it’s a disgrace that teenagers approaching adulthood are falling through the cracks simply because of their age. So I hope part of your story this Christmas will move from wanting to do something about it, to taking action to bring hope to the lives of some of those who need it most this Advent by joining in the #SeriouslyAwkward campaign to change the law to protect teenagers, particularly 16 and 17 year olds from sexual exploitation. 

By Andrew Weston - Guest bloggers
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Posted: 12 December 2015