This week we celebrate Christmas — the mass celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ — the Messenger. Across a country shaken by terrorism, the stores are festooned with lights, music fills the air and, despite the dismal realities of most, there is talk of good cheer. As I write, the frenzied are rushing to buy presents and the party season is in full swing. The Christmas season is here! All that is missing is the reason for Whom we celebrate the season: Jesus Himself.
In truth, Christmas really isn’t about Santa Claus. This is not a mere holiday; it is a Holy day. For far too many, the presence of presents denotes the absence of the gift of Jesus the Christ, “to proclaim good news to the poor … freedom to the captives … sight to the blind … (and freedom) to the oppressed.” Indeed, far too many of us still refuse to see that He was representative of most of today’s humanity — despised, denied, damned and dispossessed.
Like 71 percent of the world’s population, Jesus was born poor. Like more than 60 million the world over, He, too, was a refugee. Like more than one-third of the world population, His family did not have access to adequate health care. Like more than one billion around the world — and 500,000 in the United States — He was a homeless Child whose life was of so little consequence that His mother was forced to give birth to Him in a stable of animals, as there was no room at the stable’s inn.
Yet hope was alive, for He came at a time of great expectation among the poor and the oppressed — just when they needed Him most. The Prophet Isaiah foretold that “to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders” and that this Messiah world bring “good news” to the poor, empowering them to defeat their Roman occupiers and free themselves, saving them from political, religious and social persecution. In this season, before we lock out the Syrians fleeing murder and violence, we would do well to remember that part of the story, for God stored His precious Son among those just like them.
Jesus was a liberator; but he was the Prince of Peace, not a man of war. He gathered disciples; He did not disperse armies. He converted, rather than conquered, His occupier.
He accumulated no worldly wealth, yet sought to empower and enrich the most decimated among us.
We will be judged, He told us, by how we treat “the least of these.” We will be graded on how we treat the stranger on the Jericho Road. This week, He would expect us not to run up monetary debts, but to build up generosity credits. Let us spend some time this week helping to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for the broken-hearted.
You don’t need to be a Christian to understand the relevance of this story today. Jesus taught us the overwhelming power of faith, hope and charity, the importance of love, and the obligation to fight for peace and justice. Christmas is the “Poor Peoples’ Holy Day” and should not be co-opted by the rich, the powerful and the greedy as their holiday.
This Holy Day belongs to all. So, let’s make Heaven and Jesus happy this Christmas and face the terrors and tribulations of today’s world together, turning to each in love, not on each other in fear.
Merry Christmas, everybody!