“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. An angel of the Lord stood before them…and said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. (Luke 2:8-10)
The year 2020-21 had been bitter for everyone and one can no longer think of realizing the dream to be happy and certain in life. The Covid19 pandemic and the damage it has incurred on the lives and livelihoods of the people especially the marginalized sections is humungous. It will take decades to recover from the damage in terms of economic growth, health care, education of children and young adults and employment etc.
At the same time, our hearts cannot but be joyful on the advent of Christmas and indeed Christmas is a season of joy and once again we all long to celebrate the season with gaiety and in the spirit of pietism. Christmas reminds us that the Good News and Hope has descended into earth in the life and person of Jesus Christ. It is the season that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Hope of the world and we are being renewed in our belief in the possibility of hope.
The tales of the Christmas is a mixology of joy, anxiety and dubiety. The Gospels informed us that the tales about the first Christmas about two thousand years ago, is not only filled with joy, but there was great anxiety and dubiety.
Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus were Palestinians whose land was under the foreign Roman Empire and were considered second class citizens with no rights. During the birth of Jesus, the Roman Government was highly exploitative and heavy taxes were levied on the subjects, especially on unorganized laborers like the fisher folks, masons and daily wage earners. The Government Officials, including the Jews et al, in Palestine would care less about the wellbeing of the “aam admi” or common people, rather they were self-centered and only served the need and greed of the Roman Rulers in order to promote and protect their own powers, positions and interests.
It was ritualistic for every subject in Palestine, also Mary and Joseph, to visit Bethlehem annually to pay obeisance to the foreign government. Therefore, along with their fellow Jewish neighbors they would visit Bethlehem on such time of the year. In Bethlehem Mary and Joseph were homeless and they were found wanting for a shelter. They were daily wage earners who could not afford to buy a home or a piece of land in Bethlehem. They were landless in their own country but fortunately on that very year they were given shelter in a shed where Mary delivered the baby Jesus.
The Christmas tale about the shepherds on the hills in the country side is heart rending and sentimental. At the same time, they were the first to receive the good news via an Angel who appeared on them while they were singing through the night in an open sky. The shepherds were at the bottom of the social ladder and yet they had the opportunity to participate fully and joyfully in the hope of Christmas.
The tales of Christmas also include the decree issued by Herod, the Jewish Governor under the Roman Empire, to kill all male child in Palestine below two years of age. This decree forced many including Mary, Joseph and child Jesus to escape and live Egypt as refugees. Further, the three sages also walked under the shadow of deaths as they listened to the directions given by Herod, however the Angel led them into a different path after they had visited the child Jesus.
Jesus came to the world which is uncertain and sorrowful. The world which is broken and asunder. While we are celebrating the joy of Christmas there are many around us who are in great pain due to poverty. Disparity and inequality abound in the present. There is a huge gap between the haves and the have nots. The SSA teachers are in deep pain due to untimely and irregular disbursement of their salaries. Plethora of unpaid, underpaid workers and the unemployed are bracing the cold-chilly winter and look at the bleak months ahead of them. There are many who are suffering from various diseases and cannot afford to have expensive treatment. Sadly, our state has no better and affordable health care system. Also, there are friends who lost their loved ones during this pandemic.
Jesus came into this world to proclaim the good news of hope and liberation. The hope which Jesus proclaimed is not empty. Jesus is a human for others and gave his life for the shepherds, fisher folks, daily laborers and the common people. He gave hope and healed the lepers, the blind and the lame. He stood by the Samaritan women and defended them from being stoned and chastised by the patriarchal society. He was the friend of the destitute, orphans and in Christ Jesus there is neither slave nor master, neither Greeks nor Jews, neither gay nor straight. Everyone is free to realize their dream and drink from the same cup of hope and liberation. Today, from the State and rulers we get only false and empty hope, but Jesus Christ gives us real and tangible hope. This is the meaning Christmas and that is exactly why we celebrate the season. In Christmas we celebrate the possibility of hope.
Folks, in this dubious, dishonest and unjust world there is hope and it is possible that we can rebuild our society and fill the State with honesty, integrity and justice.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)
Blessed Christmas and meaningful year ahead.