During 2013 I have been taking a keen interest in an Iranian camp where political and religious dissidents have been treated in the most barbaric fashion, despite some attempts at intervention by western governments.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of pain and suffering human beings inflict on each other across the world today.
Only the other day, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched its biggest humanitarian appeal for help for Syrian refugee children and their families suffering in freezing temperatures.
Over 2.3 million Syrian refugees have now fled into neighbouring countries and thousands more are pouring across borders each day - one of the largest refugee exoduses in history - and now, a massive snowstorm has brought freezing temperatures, fierce winds and rain and snow, with hundreds of refugees struggling to stay warm and dry in their tents or makeshift shelters.
Have you noticed how consumerism has completely dominated our thinking in the run up to Christmas this year?
Everywhere you turn, Christmas means spending money and getting things.
Just look at the adverts on telly for the big UK stores - even some cynical journalists have commented that they’ve gone too far
It forces us to ask what Christmas is all about when a third of the world is busting its guts to spend, and many millions simply don’t have the basics for living.
Celts and Vikings tell stories so let’s go back to the story.
It’s about a young pregnant girl and her husband being forced by political power to take a very long journey to an overcrowded town where she would give birth in an out-house and the family would soon be on the run from a mad despot.
That’s enough to pull us up sharply but what we sometimes forget is important, too. The story makes it clear that child born is the Son of God, the bringer of peace, the saviour.
That means God was completely involved in this mess but he wasn’t acting for the Roman Emperor nor for cruel King Herod, he was in this with the under-dogs, and he stuck with them, right up to a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem and a cemetery garden nearby.
That’s why Syria and Iran and many other places like them across the world tell us so much about Christmas and point us back to the story that this is all about.
God bless you and yours at Christmas,