Two thousand years ago there lived in the humble sea-sidehamlet of Nazareth to the south of Galilee in Palestine, a carpenter’s son by the name of Jesus. On the first ever Christmas night, he was born under very adverse conditions far away from his hometown in the city of Bethlehem near Jerusalem, supposedly called the city of King David, the proverbial monarch of Israel from whose dynasty people expected their future Messiah to emerge. It was a cold winter’s night that saw Jesus born in a stable in the back yard of an inn. The mother wrapping up the infant in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger of straw for his bed. It was an incredible birth that was attested to by the angelic chorus that rang out over the hills glorifying God and announcing peace in the world to all people of good will. Those who had the privilege of coming to know this news, were the humble shepherds who were keeping their flocks by night nearby. Exultant with joy they hastened to the inn’s stable to gaze at the face of the new-born, So were the three wise men from the east who journeyed under the guidance of a strange star making their way to Bethlehem with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The babe that saw the light of day that night was destined to be the Eternal Galilean who would take on the world and its humanity with its struggles and hopes, making himself the Light of the world, the healer of all infirmities and a person who would bestow life in its fullness.
HisTeachings foster Paradigms of Social Transformation
The Magna Charta of his teaching is encapsulated in the much-celebrated and the classical Sermon on the Mount he delivered in the hillside of Galilee. He declared the poor to be blessed in his kingdom and pledged that the meek will inherit the land. Those who would risk being persecuted for his name’s sake and that of righteousness would be blessed too for their names would be immortal. He brought the good news of a God who forgives and takes to his embrace all sinners who amend their lives and begin anew along the path of virtue. To this teacher is attributed in the Bible some of the most fascinating and breath-taking parables about forgiveness such as that of the prodigal son who demands freedom and his inheritance, abusing it squandering in filth and debauchery but repenting later, returns home to be warmly embraced by the father who had awaited his return ever since he left home. Another is the parable of the good shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to look for the lost sheep and finding him puts him over his shoulders and begins to dance around in joy is yet another such touching story. Further, he taught the obligation of universal love and compassion in propounding the parable of the good Samaritan which has by now become in world literature and art an epic symbol of charity, love and concern for all those struck by misfortune and tragedy of some kind.
The Good Samaritan comes across a Jew, always an enemy in the mind of his fellow Samaritans, fallen by the wayside along a lonely road, beaten by brigands and relieved of his belongings, leaving him half-dead. Moved with great compassion he gets to him, binds his wounds pouring oil on them, mounts him on his donkey and takes him to an inn where he is handed over with instructions to treat him promising on his return to cover even the extra costs if any. In this story Jesus the teacher harps on the crucial importance of crossing borders of race, religion, ethnicity and socio-political differences in caring for all whom we find to be needy and in suffering. The good Samaritan has inspired many a philanthropic person to reach out to all needy, irrespective of differences. This is well seen in the spirit that drives people to assist victims of natural disasters, pandemics, post-war casualties and those with terminal deceases such as cancer, Aids and Co-vid. The care of the elderly, the retarded and the orphans by now, are considered classical forms of charity and compassion. No person in modern times has left a supreme example of charity than the world-renowned Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the saint of the gutters who used to pick up destitute from the streets and the dying from slums, to shower on them immense and incredible love and care. She also championed the cause of the unborn and condemned in no uncertain terms the despicable scourge of criminal abortion that turns the wombs of mothers into living cemeteries instead of honoring them as sanctuaries that shelter emergent life. She was a pro-life apostle who vehemently resisted the expanding culture of death in its many forms. This spirit of charity and compassion greatly inspires the immense and global network of hospitals, homes for elders and orphanages, leper asylums in their thousands and rehabilitation centers for mentally handicapped and drug addicts which Christians of all churches, run across the globe and often in partnership with similar religious and civil organisations.
Face of Jesus portrays the Countenance of God
In the face of this Eternal Galilean whose birth Christmas celebrates, radiated the very face of God who cares, is patient, forgives, heals, frees and instills hope. He embraces and touches the lepers in healing, forgives the sinners who sob at his feet, relieves from sicknesses and pains those afflicted in body and mind and more especially portrays friendship with those who are marginalised, vulnerable and cornered by social stigmas of all kinds. He dialogues with all with the exception of one class of people who were hypocrites since this vice of hypocrisy is abhorrent in the eyes of God and is diametrically opposed to the spirit of truth, genuineness and authenticity even on purely human terms. In his message, the eternal Galilean had open space for women and children who in the society of his day had no voice in public life. The innocence of little children that drew him to love them fondly, made him one of their great advocates who decried those who abuse children, scandalise them and belittle them. While he pointed to children as symbols of his kingdom calling adults to be child-like, he strongly berated child-abusers as deserving to be cast into the depths of the sea with millstones tied to them. Thus, the world of children has become the echoing voice of the teachings of Jesus about social justice, human dignity and human rights. The world talks eloquently today about human dignity and the array of fundamental rights that flow from that self-same dignity. Well we have in the person of Jesus the eternal Galilean the very incarnation of these truths, for in him God has become man showing that he portrays God’s love in human language and that there is something eminently noble, gracious and sublime in being and becoming human. Jesus of Nazareth, the God-Man is the glory and crowning of the human race. Nothing human is ever alien to him. When Pilate brought him out in the gaze of the crowd on Good Friday and declared: “Look, behold the man!”, this poignant imperial declaration by the highest Roman authority of the land of Jesus, reveals it all.
Towards a worthy Celebration
There is to our dismay, a regrettable tendency in the secular culture of today, of either secularising or simply trivialising anything that appears religious and sacred that looms in its horizon. This sad phenomenon has over the last few decades infected also the world-wide Christian celebration of Christmas. For the devout Christian and to all of goodwill, the birth of Jesus Christ is a hallowed event of cosmic significance. The impact of the Jesus story that has now been heard at the extremities of the earth, no doubtresonates well indeed with the ever-perennial propensity of mankind to be in pursuit of happiness, while living in a world safe and secure, where every genuine hope can be fulfilled and every legitimate dream realised. Jesus, the Eternal Galilean, though as a historic person was for all that matter, a Jew by race, is now seen to be trans-cultural and as one belonging to all humanity.
Certainly, taking into consideration the long expanse of the Christian era, much good has dawned with many cultures and civilisations coming into contact with Christianity. Even in countries where Christianity is only a minority, Christians have contributed a lion’s share in some of their liberation struggles, working in the fields of education and health care, national reconciliation and in social services sector as well. Christmas being one of the greatest spiritual treasures of the Christian religion, is a special gift that it is able to bestow and share with the world at large. To treat it solely as a time for merry-making and fanfare denies justice to the celebration.
Therefore,every Christmas offers a golden opportunity and a season to lead us delve into the more profound aspects of the birth and life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Eternal Galilean. One must avoid at all cost trivialising the meaning and message of Christmas by allowing it to succumb to the forces of the market and thus being commercialised, paganised as a time for more lucrative business and mere reveling. This secular trend has to be overturned with the world made to see the more profound impact of the teacher from Galilee who brought a social revolution of love, compassion, forgiveness and respect of human dignity. That would create a Christmas culture with a difference, paving the way for a better and happier world to rise in our horizons, as we stand on the threshold of the third decade of this new millennium.