n three days time; on December 25 to be precise, all over the world, Christians and others of different faith, will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ whom Christians believe is the son of God.
It was the time, Augustus Caesar who had conquered the Middle East, had declared all men should travel to their hometowns with their families and register themselves.
And so it was Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary who was pregnant, had to take her and travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem - Joseph’s ancestral home. They had to travel around 90 miles. It took a person walking, between 17 to 20 miles a day around five days to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
It was a gruelling 5-day trip which took its heavy toll on Mary who was pregnant. And so it happened, that by the time Joseph and Mary reached Bethlehem, Mary’s time to deliver the child had arrived. Finding no rooms available at any inn, they were forced to take shelter in a humble stable at Bethlehem’.
Here amid animals, amid animal droppings and the smell of stale excreta, Jesus Christ, the Palestinian of Jewish descent, who Christians believe is ‘God-made Man’ was born.
Shortly after Christ’s birth however, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were forced to flee Palestine for Egypt - to escape the wrath of King Herod, who wanted him killed. Herod a Jewish sub-king who ruled under the authority of Rome, believed Jesus was the king spoken of in scriptures. He feared Jesus would one day dethrone him. However, having been warned of Herod’s plan, Joseph took Jesus and Mary and fled to Egypt.
This year too Christians will celebrate Christmas, and we must celebrate. For it was, on this day the Saviour was born. However, as we dress in our Christmas’ best, go for service at our churches, as we sit down for breakfast and enjoy the special Christmas cake, we need to remember our less fortunate brothers.
For, many Christian fathers and mothers, Christmas is a time of stress. Some cannot even afford to provide two square meals to their kids. As the more fortunate among Christian children receive gifts from Santa Claus, the hearts of millions of less fortunate Christian Moms and Dads will be breaking, as their children will not receive gifts from that ‘lovable old man’. These Moms and Dads will be crying within themselves when they see other kids dressed in lovely clothes, while their children have none.
As the Christ-child was forced to flee the wrath of Herod who wished him dead, today once again the Palestinians, some of whom may have been, direct relatives of Jesus are forced to flee their homes once more.
Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith speaking of the time he lived and studied in Palestine, at the ceremony of lighting of the ‘Christmas Tree’ at the Palestinian Embassy in Colombo, recalled seeing and meeting Palestinians whose homes had been demolished and were subject to oppression by Israeli forces of occupation. He said he had seen Palestinian men and women carrying suitcases and mothers carrying their crying babies, walking down a street after their homes had been demolished by the occupying forces.
UN statistics as at February 18, 2018, tells us there are over 17 million refugees worldwide. Nearly 7.2 million of them are Palestinians. More than 4.3 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, displaced in 1948 are registered for humanitarian assistance with the UN!
Let us also remember that Jesus too was a survivor of a mass killing. Christians commemorate the feast of Holy Innocents - the time Herod attempted to kill Jesus - on December 28. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, “The Greek Liturgy asserts that Herod killed 14,000 boys who were below two years of age on that occasion.
So Christmas is also a time we should remember the victims of mass killings and the deranged persons who condemn innocents to death. Christmas is also a time to remember the mass killing of Jews under the Nazi regime, probably the single largest number targeted in an organised mass killing. Yet, the celebration of Christmas is a must, for it celebrates the life of Christ. But, let us not merely ‘spare a thought’ for those victims of poverty and crimes against humanity and Christ’s Palestinian brothers and sisters who are still under occupation by ferocious forces of occupation.
Let us make ourselves a promise that in our own little way, we take some action to fight against injustice and war, for injustice and war only kill peace and breed hatred.