The Nativity is a celebration of the birth of the leader of the largest religion in the world and Christmas is a time when we all reflect on the human side of the Holy Family. Although we are at a considerable remove, both in terms of time and distance, from the nativity scene in Bethlehem all those years ago, we all empathise with the young mother struggling to bring her infant into this world in difficult circumstances.
The image is firmly in place in all our minds – Mary and Joseph turned away from one door after the next until finally securing lodging in a stable. The cattle, sheep and, of course, the donkey that carried the pregnant Mary all bearing witness to the birth of Jesus. The herald angels bursting into song to proclaim the good news to the shepherds that were tending their flocks on the snow covered hills. The three kings from the east that came to pay homage and to deliver their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. All of these Christmas motifs are played out in nativity plays and cribs across the western world at this time and they add to the whole magic and mystery of Christmas.
That was until the Pope’s new book (Jesus of Nazareth: the infancy narratives) came out last month. Apparently there was no cow, sheep or donkey. The angels told the shepherds but they didn’t sing to them. The three kings probably weren’t kings (more likely wise men) and there is nothing to say that there were three of them (an assumption based on the fact that there were three gifts). These crib-destroying revelations come after the then Archbishop of Canterbury said (in 2007) that there was also no evidence of the birth having happened in December and that it was very unlikely that there was any snow.
None of this changes the fundamental message of Christmas, a message of hope and of sharing, a time for families to come together and celebrate and reflect on the year gone by. They do demonstrate how sometimes the narrative surrounding the facts can become more important that the underlying facts themselves.
Fairness has been a key element of the Government narrative over the past two years. Like the Nativity, there is a mixture of truth and myth in this narrative. At a fundamental level, there is no doubt that the country is moving closer to recovery. The tax take and the spending levels (in broad terms) have been coming in close to targeted levels and the bond markets seem to be coming more comfortable lending funds to us. But, in a season that celebrates the mother and the miracle of childbirth, it does appear that the budgetary measures cutting respite grants and children’s allowances and taxing maternity benefit are somewhat misguided.
Perhaps the ‘wise men’ can use the coming days to review some of these decisions and maybe Enda or Michael can take the role of Santa Claus, reverse some of these cuts and give the impacted women a happier Christmas!
By Hannah Kiely, CEO, HC Financial Advisers Limited
HC Financial Advisers ………..we advise