What’s a pound actually worth?

I was very surprised after reflecting on all the discussion about likely consequences perceived to flow from the fall in the value of the British pound.  Whilst much was made of the corresponding rise in inflation, especially for food prices, and the potential boon for UK exporters, no-one that I’ve read online or heard on the radio/TV seems to have spotted what is surmised to be most important to 52% of the British people – a weaker pound means the UK is less attractive for migrant labour.  Anyone coming here to work from a foreign country and hoping to send back stipends to family, or save-up for a return back to their home town, will now find British jobs less alluring.  Considering that many (I believe, wrongly) expressed their dismay at “our jobs being stolen”, “our wages undercut” and “our services being put under too much strain”, surely someone should be trumpeting this benefit loudly amidst all the post-referendum gloom.

Possibly, this is another example of where the experts are out-of-tune with popular sentiment and unable to connect with the lives of real people, as implied by how their advice was roundly rejected by 52% in the referendum.

Whatever, what’s tragic is that all this misses the deeper lesson of these events.  As Christ Jesus declared, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19).  Still so relevant today, though of course we could add to the list of money-busters inflation and stock market crashes.  Thankfully, the remedy is close to hand: “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” where nothing and no-one can pilfer your reward from Christ Jesus Himself.

No room at the inn

As thoughts start to turn towards Christmas with seasonal aisles appearing in stores, discussions about where (and with whom) to celebrate the big day and planning for purchasing a panoply of presents, I was struck once again by the relevance of the old story that has launched countless celebrations.

Over 2000 years ago, a young couple were forced to leave their hometown, travel many miles across difficult terrain and trust in the kindness of strangers for their accommodation.  Yet, in Bethlehem, there was no room in any inn or house, even for a heavily pregnant woman, possibly starting to experience contractions and doubtless anxious to ensure the safe delivery of her first child.  Mary and Joseph were not foreigners, but fellow-Jews who should (according to the Torah) have been treated with compassion: “love your neighbour, as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).  Despite their knowledge of God and religion, Bethlehem closed its doors and the Saviour was born in a stable.

What a sad indictment of our society’s reluctance to welcome refugees today.  We seem to have so little time, concern or care for anyone outside our immediate circle.  Whether we label this “compassion fatigue”, or human selfishness, we need to keep remembering the real message of Christmas.  God coming down to earth, breaking into our lives, irrespective of the barriers we build, but still pleading with us to respond – to open our hearts to the outcast and the stranger.  For when we welcome even the least of these, we invite in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 25:40).