At Christmas we remember how to be kind, caring and loving
THE final instalment in the three- part ‘Hobbit’ film series was released in Ireland in the past couple of weeks, bringing to a conclusion the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One of the central themes of JRR Tolkein’ s 1937 children’s book is the overcoming of greed and selfishness, and in this Christmas week it’s a theme that certainly strikes a chord with all of us, even though we sometimes fall short of its ideal.
At the beginning of the tale, in the first film of the series ‘ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure’, we met Gandalf the powerful and kindly wizard. He came to ask young Bilbo Baggins to accompany thirteen dwarfs on an epic adventure to the Lonely Mountain - the “Promised Land” of the dwarfs which had been overtaken by the dragon Smaug. Bilbo certainly didn’t want to leave his comfortable house in the ‘Shire’ to go off on an adventure with these unknown dwarfs, but he ultimately decides to join them mostly because he takes pity on their homelessness.
Because Bilbo has a compassionate heart and generous spirit - one that Gandalf saw in him before he saw it himself - and whether it is facing off against the dragon Smaug, or any form of trolls, goblins, or orcs, Gandalf chooses to place his trust in little people like Bilbo instead of wizards, elves, or kings.
In that first film Gandalf explains his decision to choose an insignificant hobbit called Bilbo for this task saying: “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay: small acts of kindness and love”.
Too often, I believe that we also think as Saruman does. We tend to put our faith in seemingly important people to solve all our problems - politicians, celebrities, media figures, and household names. We bet on them to fix our economy, get rid of crime and poverty, and bring peace and happiness to our world. And most often, they don’t deliver. Maybe it’s time to think as Gandalf does, and to put our faith in the gifts God has given to us, rather than waiting for some greater power on earth to solve everything for us. It seems to me that, like Gandalf, God puts his faith in ordinary folk.
In the Christmas story this is borne out so clearly. God trusted the salvation of humanity to a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem, who grew to be a man that lived his whole life in poverty, who walked up and down the unmarked roads of a forgotten Roman province, and who died the death of a forsaken criminal. God didn’t trust in the great powers like kings, emperors, or high priests for the task of redemption - but in the simplicity and ordinary life of a Galilean peasant.
And God continues to put his faith in ordinary folk today. The most wonderful thing about Christmas is that we remember how to be kind, we remember how to be caring and loving, and we remember our capacity to be generous. At Christmas time many people will reach out to their neighbour and to the stranger, generously giving what they can to help others in need.
All acts of kindness can have an amazing effect. Christmas is the season of goodwill to all people, and it’s the season that I believe brings out the best in humanity.