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I saw an article in a magazine earlier this week asking various celebrities the question: What does Christmas really mean to you? Not surprisingly, common themes seemed to be mostly about travelling home, and spending quality time, tucked up safe and secure with loved ones, families and friends. For one or two of the celebrities interviewed Christmas time clearly held a far deeper and spiritual meaning, and they talked about the importance of Midnight Mass, Carol Services and ….. charity.

It got me thinking – what does Christmas really mean to me? I thought about my daughter’s Nativity Play from many, many, years ago. I thought about Mary and Joseph having nowhere to stay, and then bizarrely, I remembered a legendary piece of Nativity Play dialogue that had lodged itself in my unconscious, which went something along the lines of:

Joseph: “Please give us a room. Mary is going to have a baby”.

Innkeeper: “I have no rooms available”

Joseph: “We are desperate”

Innkeeper; “There’s a stable out the back. It’s basic, but it’s warm.”

And suddenly I got it – possibly for the first time ever I considered the vitally important role that the much criticized and maligned Innkeeper played in the Nativity Story. If not for the kindness and charity of this man (and his wife, played beautifully by my little girl over a decade ago) where exactly would the Shepherds, Wise Men and Archangels have visited the baby Jesus today -in a subway perhaps, or a squat, or maybe in the doorway of Superdrug or Primark?

For me, Christmas is all about being at home. It’s about feeling safe and secure and loved. It’s about family traditions and all of those things that help us to feel connected – that give us our identity and sense of belonging. But what about the people that can’t go home? What about the people that won’t be sharing their Christmas with loved ones and family?

I am sure that I am not the only one who has been both moved and troubled by Crisis’ Television Advertisement this year. If you’ve not yet seen, or heard the advert, it is narrated by Sir Ian McKellern, with Silent Night hauntingly played by a Brass Band in the background. Crisis,The National Charity for Single Homeless People, are appealing for us to ‘bring someone in from the cold this Christmas’. The advert explains that for just £20.48 we can book a place for a hot Christmas Dinner, and a warm, safe place to stay with people that really care. Crisis at Christmas will provide a homeless person with a hot shower and clean clothes so that they can feel human again. They will give them a health check which could well save their life, along with housing and job advice bringing hope for a better year ahead, and – for many – opening the door for a whole new life. Last year Crisis gave over 3000 homeless people a truly special Christmas.

According to Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive at Crisis, homelessness is about more than rooflessness. A home is not just a physical space, it also has a legal and social dimension. A home provides roots, identity, a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing. Homelessness is about the loss of all of these. It is an isolating and destructive experience and homeless people are some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded in our society.

As individuals, at a cellular level we have just two operating mechanisms: we survive, or we grow. A cell can only be in one mechanism at a time. When we feel fear, anxiety, or when we feel threatened, our bodies stimulate cortisol, a stress hormone that effectively causes us to close down. A climate of fear and uncertainty damages both the effectiveness of an organization, and the wellbeing of it’s employees .Our cells take their signals from their environment, and long-term exposure to stress hormones damages and kills our cells. Is it any wonder then, that according to The Crisis Impact Report 2012, on average, homeless people die at just 47 years of age?

This Christmas I will be counting my blessings, and at the same time I will share a thought, and a prayer, for all of those people who won’t be coming home this year.

Merry Christmas to you all, and on behalf of The Charisma Team, we wish you a happy, healthy and abundant 2013.

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