Christmas reminds us that God became human. To negate or reject this means to negate the importance of God. The question is not about dating the event, but the significance of this event in history. God is born in history. Is it not? To deny the fact of Christmas is to deny that God became human. Can we maintain such a position?
God took the form of an infant/baby. Doesn’t it unsettle the settled notions about him? It should. God as an infant/baby has implication for our undertaking of children in the world. We thank God for Christmas, that it is the festival of the Holy Child and thereby all childhood has been made more significant and precious.
However, if one honestly means to be a Christian, s/he cannot stop with the sentiments of Christmas. We get it wrong if we fail to carry the thoughts forward to the man into whom the child of Bethlehem would become. He comes not only with the child’s appeal, but with everlasting human authority: to force us to decisions which must be very difficult, to compel us to review and reshape the values of our living, to renounce some of the things that pride or greed or lust of power foster, to cling to and to accept instead the royal imperatives of his law of service.
Why is this man important for us? Do we care what he has done and said? I would like to draw your attention to three major approaches of his life for us today.
- He identified with the ‘least’ – He identified with people who were considered the ‘least’, marginalized, no-people. It is the God-encounter of the poor, the poor by choice (the renouncers) and the poor by circumstances. He had a preferential option for the least. He confronted the rich and the powerful and exposed the fallacy of counterfeit and pseudo spirituality/religiosity of the religious giants of his days. He pointed out that God is someone who journeys to the margins, and is to be found at the periphery (Exo. 3). God-encounter happens at the periphery. Today the spirituality/religiosity that caters to the hegemonizing tendencies of the Church finds itself under the judgment of the infant who became the man from Nazareth.
- He did not discriminate – He was born into a context where dichotomous social structuring was the rule of the time. Women and children were considered ‘things’ to be owned. He gave the women and children a value worthy of them. To the woman caught in adultery he said, “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). To those who stopped the children coming to him, angrily he said, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). He presented the children as a litmus test to expose the presence of pride in humanity. John Pieper puts it succinctly,
Receiving a child into your arms in the name of Jesus is a way to receive Jesus. And receiving Jesus is a way to receive God. Therefore how we deal with children is a signal of our fellowship with God. Something is deeply amiss in the soul that does not descend (or is it really ascend?) to love and hold a child.
- He challenged moral confusion – We live in a world that wants to escape the moral confusion around us. Harvey Cox in his thought-provoking book When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today writes that the question “What would Jesus do?” does not always work. Because he lived twenty centuries ago and in very different circumstances, Jesus never had to face many of the vexing choices we encounter. We are aware that the centuries separating Jesus from us constitute a real quandary. However, our encounter with this man has taught us that he was a rabbi, and that he did not hand out ‘ready-made’ answers. Rather he demonstrated a way of approaching moral decisions that they could use themselves. We see that if we draw on the power of our imagination, as Jesus made people do with his cryptic sayings and piercing parables, his message does indeed say something important to us today. The question is how we translate his method and his message into our current idiom. In the midst of two extremities – moralistic fundamentalism v/s do-your-own thing relativism, this man challenges our notions. His life is described as the single most important moral influence in history. This Galilean still has a powerful, even imperative, moral significance for our times.
Hasn’t he grown up? Christmas reminds us the startling fact that he has moved from the infant to the man of Nazareth. Are we still stuck on his infancy? It demands a commitment from our part to grow up to the man of Nazareth. Paul reminds us to grow up to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Let this Christmas challenge us with the fact that the infant directs our attention to the man of Nazareth. What is so attractive about the man? He unsettles every settled notions of our human value. He welcomes Humanity with open arms: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Will you turn to the man of Nazareth on this Christmas?