Today on the eve of Christmas many people throughout the world both Christian and non-Christian alike are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a man who has had immense influence upon individuals, nations and civilizations.
His birth event remains an enigma even today and teaches us many things about life and what is truly valuable. As the Gospels tell us, Jesus Christ was born in the small town of Bethlehem a few miles from the great city of Jerusalem. Bethlehem while being the town of Israel’s greatest king, David, was also the village that supplied the animals sacrificed at the temple.
This has made many scholars connect the life and mission of Christ to this attitude of sacrifice especially as the Bible says that He was laid in a manger. A manger was a device that was designed to hold food for animals. By being laid in a manger, His very birth signifies a life destined to be food and a sacrifice for others. That is why many have called him the ‘Man for Others’. Some have gone on to say that while every person born to this earth comes to live, Jesus came into the world to die, so that others may live.
This brings us to a fundamental question that we grapple with at some time or another -- the question of what the true meaning and purpose of life is. In the animal world, creatures instinctively live for themselves and for the propagation and protection of their species. This is the programme written into them by nature itself. It is only about themselves at the cost of any other creature. It is no surprise to see this same attitude in many humans who are not morally and spiritually developed.
They are focussed on their own needs and their own desires and pleasures. Using, abusing and exploiting others, other life forms and nature itself for one’s own security, need and pleasure seems the only way to live. To people at that level of consciousness even God or spirituality is another tool to be used, bargained with and exploited for their own needs or pleasure. Acquiring, possessing and having is never enough and more only leads to a deeper desire for even more and becomes an all-consuming fire within that not only destroys others but burns up the innermost self, leaving one empty and discontented.
This drives people to consumerism and reckless spending sprees at Christmas, throwing away hard-earned money and year-end bonuses on things advertised as the ultimate answer for their needs or their cravings. They forget that they were promised the same answers by screaming advertisements the previous year and the ‘cutting edge technology’ of last year lies abandoned and forgotten in some corner of the house this year. But the cycle goes on and on.
Jesus is called the ‘Prince of Peace’ by a Prophet 700 years before his birth and the angels that appeared to shepherds at his birth confirm this by saying ‘peace to men of goodwill’. Jesus by being born in a manger and by living and dying for others shows us another way to a life full of meaning and peace.
When we look at the baby in the manger we realize that peace and contentment are not found outside in things or in the comforts that surround us. Rather it is found in living for values and purposes that benefit others and the whole world. In fact, making sacrifices to meet the needs of others and for the common good creates deep inner peace and creates a sense of meaning and purpose that generates true happiness and joy.
Let us overcome the instinctive aversion we have towards sacrifice and giving up which comes from our natural self and seek to think about and meet the needs of others in this season of Christmas. This in turn will awaken our spiritual self and make the true peace and joy of Christmas a reality within.