Every year as the month of December begins markets are flooded with colourful goods related to Christmas. In the past only the markets in Europe and Christian dominated places had this Christmas effect. Due to globalization and influence of media it has spread to all countries and regions where there is no Christian presence. Hotels, shops and airports are decorated with stars, Christmas trees and Santa claus. Schools organize Christmas carols and other activities to celebrate this feast. Children from the families of other faith also insist to have the red caps and masks of Santa claus and parents gladly purchase them for their children. Gifts are exchanged and cakes are distributed irrespective of religion and caste. The BJP Government and fanatic Hindutuva groups tried in vain to stop these celebrations. Despite all negative publicity and physical attacks on groups who celebrate Christmas this festival is going to stay for the years to come. Christmas has acquired the status of a global business. The business and market have no religion, caste and race. Profit is more in religious industry because God is the commodity for sale.
Churches and religious communities become busy for the whole of December with preparation for Christmas. Crib making, carol singing, processions through the public roads, making cakes and variety of sweets keep everyone busy. Market is crowded with people buying gifts for friends and all who work in the institutions. Life is made hectic with various parties and get-together during Christmas season. Rituals and sermons explain the miracle of God’s incarnation in human form. Yet we fail to recognize God incarnate in living human beings, instead He is rejected, insulted and murdered every day.
Cribs are erected in churches and families to remind people of the birth of Christ in the simplicity of a stable because his parents Joseph and Mary did not get a decent place to give birth to him. How many Christians ever reflect on the fact that Christ was denied a place to be born? Christmas is a celebration of rejection of God by human beings when He arrived in human form. The violence, hatred, prejudice, division, discrimination and exploitation which human beings commit against one another is a repeat of what happened on the first Christmas. Today also we fail to recognize God when He arrives to us in human form. We recognize God only in the lifeless statues in churches, temples and other worship places. People fight and kill each other to protect these statues. We accept God only if He comes in the way familiar to us. If He comes in an unfamiliar colour and shape, speaks a different language, eats different food and wears different clothes we reject Him.
Jesus in His words and deeds categorically made clear that His kingdom belongs to people of all caste, creed and class. He broke all barriers. He envisaged a society where everyone gets equal honour, dignity and justice. He replaced innumerable oppressive laws into one commandment of love. Jesus defined God as love and service to human beings as the perfect worship. This is the message sages and saints of all religions repeated in all ages. Yet people of all faith fight and kill each other to protect the lifeless statues of gods and construct temples. While Christians speak eloquently about the simplicity of the stable in which Christ was born they waste money to construct large palatial churches.
In the modern times Christmas has unified the global market with its business. The market forces have broken all the walls. Why then do we fail to break our mental walls of division, discrimination, prejudice, hostility and rejection of diversity when we celebrate this global feast? How can we sing carol songs of peace with hatred and hostility to those who live with us? Why are we not sensitive to pay just wages to those who work in our institutions and communities? Internal cleansing is required before decorating our houses and churches.
As we feed the poor on Christmas day let us not be indifferent to Christ in the hungry people throughout the year. As we gift clothes to the poor on Christmas day let us work to provide clothes and shelter to the poor through sustainable projects. As we open our houses to welcome people on Christmas day let us be open and be available at all times to welcome Christ who comes in the form of guests and strangers by offering our generous hospitality by walking extra mile.
Christmas is not an event which we celebrate once in a year. It is a celebration of life throughout the year. We need to continue working for peace and reconciliation throughout our lives. Christmas song of peace should be converted into a permanent mission for building peace throughout the year. We need to keep our focus on the shining star, Christ, to check all our actions with this question, “What would Christ do if He were here?”
The conception and birth of Christ were very different from the routine ways. His life and teachings were different from the routine. Hence we need to incarnate ourselves every day daring to be different from the routine way of life and work. Christmas calls us to break the unproductive and outdated routine practices and adopt innovative projects by daring to dream of doing something creative which no one has done so far.
The poor shepherds were privileged to meet child Jesus in the stable before anyone else because they were alert and awake in the middle of the night. They were also open to receive the message of the birth of Christ. They were prompt to explore the truth of the message with an open mind. Every day God sends many messages and insights to each one of us from various sources. How alert are we to discern them? How prompt are we to follow what Christ said to His disciples, “let us go to the other side”? Should we make the mistake of being stubborn like the Jews who were expecting a powerful political king as their saviour?
Let us get out of the sound and noise of the Christmas market and enter into the silence of the stable of our heart to see God incarnate in flesh and blood. When the colours and lights of Christmas market will fade away, when the melody of carols and solemnity of the church rituals will end, the God incarnate will stay in human beings around us. When we recognize and serve them in our daily life God will be glorified and His peace will spread on earth. Every prayer for peace and every act of facilitating reconciliation will glorify God and bring His peace on earth. This is the way to celebrate Christmas 24X7 in 365 days, not in shopping malls of religious industry.(Published on 31th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 01)