Tomorrow December 1, we begin the Christmas season which has been commercialised to such an extent that some theologians are even suggesting that the name be changed, though the business world has already taken Christ out of Christmas and refers to it as X’mas.
Bells, balloons and bonbons, cards, cakes and crackers are quite in order for young children to enjoy this festive season. But as we grow up we need to be more mature and spiritual in our celebration of Christmas because Christ was born in a borrowed cattle-shed with urine and other muck littering the stable; he lived a simple life without a wallet or travelling bag and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for people to live in a simple and humble way without wasteful expenditure, luxuries or extravagance. Millions of people all over the world are suffering without money for even two proper meals while facilities for health and education are below the border line. In Puerto Rico which is part of the United States, thousands of people are still suffering from the hurricane which hit the area some months ago. Even recently people said they did not have even clean water for drinking. Some were drinking contaminated water and ending up with diseases while others were buying drinking water for as much US$10 a bottle.
In such a calamity which has affected several parts of Sri Lanka also, mainly in the North and East, tens of thousands of people are struggling for survival. For some 80,000 war widows and families there will be no Christmas cakes or trees but a cattle shed experience which in strange way is more like what Jesus would prefer and will manifest himself.
For most business establishments, December is the time they make their biggest profits. Various marketing and sales campaigns are launched prompting or provoking people to buy one and get one free. The business establishments cannot be blamed because they are in the trade to make profits not for love or charity. Then who is responsible? Largely the people themselves who use their bonuses and other festival incentives to buy not what they need but what they desire or what other people are buying.
While allowing children to have some fun with Santa Claus and all that, adults need to be aware this season will have deeper meaning when we save more and share more with others. For years prophetic voices have called for strict measures to end the commercialisation of Christmas and we hope some meaningful steps will be taken because the reality is that to have a happy Christmas we need to make other people happy, specially the impoverished and marginalised people.
The Church authorities need to make people aware that Christmas is a time for sharing and caring especially with the impoverished and marginalised people. If we do not enter into that dimension, we will be joining the business community and celebrating Christmas without Christ.
Christ the King has said to those who are going to the eternal heavenly Kingdom, “I was hungry you fed me, I was thirsty you gave me to drink, I was a refugee you gave me shelter, I was sick or imprisoned, you visited and cared for me. Then these people will ask, “When did we do this to you.” Christ will reply, “Whenever you did this to my brothers and sisters you did it to me.” What will be our response.