Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the Inn. That's how the story goes! Anybody who has ever been top a school nativity knows it.
So Mary was not sleeping rough. Jesus was not born in a shop doorway. But was there a decent lock on the door of the stable? Was there decent sanitation - even for that time? Were Mary and Joseph alone or were there other people staying in the stable and if so what were they like? Were they drunk? Were they pushing drugs?
Over the years people have often - rightly - talked about Mary and Joseph being homeless. Yet they were not sleeping rough.
One of the things I have learned over the past year is that you can be homeless without sleeping rough. You may be in rented accommodation. You may be in a B&B. But you are still homeless. You do not have a place to call your own as so many of us are lucky enough to be able to do.
Some research published this month about the North East of England tells that many homeless people living in this sort of accommodation, live in rooms without any proper locks, their showers and toilets may be not working for long periods of time. They may have completely inadequate heating. They may have to share rooms with strangers and may be locked out of these places for long periods. In some cases they will be abused in all sorts of ways by the people who own the building.
Many of those living in this accommodation are people for whom life has been difficult for a long time. For many their health gets worse and worse living in this type of accommodation.
Shelter the UK housing and homelessness charity tell us that on Christmas morning 90,000 children - the equivalent of three in every school - will wake up homeless. Many will be living in the sort of conditions I have described.
I find it almost impossible to imagine what living life like that would feel like to me. I find it almost impossible to imagine how I would feel if I were a dad waking up on Christmas morning in those conditions.
I find I have to keep asking myself why I am not more angry and concerned about this; that people who are just the same as I am.
Earlier this year I found a quote that has stayed with me. Its from Greg Boyle the priest behind Homeboy Industries, "If there is a fundamental challenge ..... it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives."
One of the things I have learned over the years is that when I meet people whose experience of life is very different to my own my sumpathies broaden and I become more concerned about them. That is why I hve in recent uears become such a supporter of DePaul's Nightstop project which places homeless young people in people's homes for a night. I now feel I understand much more about why young people are homeless and what life is like for them. I thin, and hope, I am becoming more sympathetic and more understanding.
I know I need to do getting to know people different from me more.
I have to see what I can do to live my life believing that nobody's life matters less than mineSuggest a correction