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The birth of the new

Is real change possible? Or should we accept that things will always be this way? The Christmas story provides an emphatic answer, writes Gideon Heugh.

Gideon Heugh | 17 Dec 2020

After a year like 2020, when the world has faced so many challenges, setbacks and disappointments, answering this question becomes less straightforward. It’s easy for a little cynicism to creep in: maybe this is just the way things are?


The Christmas story provides a stunning counter to such suggestions.

Waiting for generations

The people of Israel had waited centuries for their Messiah. After the rule of King David, they’d seen their broken in two – then came the Assyrian invasion. Then the destruction of the temple and exile. Then the Greeks invaded. And then the Romans. Every time that God’s people seemed to break free, they were oppressed once more.

And still, the words of the prophets echoed through time. Maybe they were whispered around campfires late at night. Something new will be born. How many still believed? How many had given up? How many were saying ‘maybe this is just the way things are’?

Mary would have known her people’s history. She would have known that she belonged to a nation who had suffered, and who had waited endlessly for salvation. It’s hard to imagine the shock she must have felt when she was told. The incredulity. The awe. And then the unbridled, overflowing joy. 

A declaration of hope

The birth of Christ was an irrefutable declaration of hope. Christmas proclaims that no matter how dark the night, strange stars can appear in the sky; that no matter how hopeless the situation might seem, something new can be born.

We hold to this truth fiercely at Tearfund. Because one of the first things that poverty can take away is the belief that things can change. Communities begin to doubt their ability to make a difference. And so part of our work is to help people rediscover that – even when hope seems lost – something new can come to life in their lives.

Let us declare that over ourselves this Christmas. Let us declare it over the world. Let us declare it over 2021: that something new will be born.

A Christmas prayer

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We declare your name over our lives. We declare your light over this world. We declare your hope over this coming year. Amen.

Gideon Heugh


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Is real change possible? Or should we accept that things will always be this way? The Christmas story provides an emphatic answer, writes Gideon Heugh.

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