Skip to main content

Christmas is the gifts of love and fellowship; of mercy and reconciliation; of sharing and caring; of justice and solidarity

By Fr Cedric Prakash, sj*
One of the most meaningful features of the Christmas Season is that of gift-giving! Across the globe, people love to give gifts at Christmas to others and of course to receive gifts too! Gifts come in a whole range: from the inexpensive yet lovingly hand-made card to perhaps a gold-crusted diamond purchased from an expensive jewelry store! Santa Claus (a caricature of the saintly Bishop Nicholas who went round caring for the poor and the hungry) comes laden with gifts; Christmas stockings bulge with gifts and one can find gifts below the family Christmas tree.
Children look forward to the Childrens Celebrations during the Christmas week when they will receive gifts- it does not matter if they are just trinkets; or some made-in China’ stuff; balloons or plastic toys!Giving gifts at Christmastime perhaps originated from the fact that when the shepherds ran in haste to worship Jesus they probably took with them the best of their flock to present to the new-born King. The little shepherd boy had nothing to offer Jesus; just the music he could play on his drum: that was his gift! The Bible makes no mention of all this (media today rarely reports the good done by the poor and simple folk). What however takes the cake, are the gifts offered by the Magi (the three Kings): gold, frankincense and myrrh. All these gifts were rich in symbolism: gold of kingship on earth; frankincense as symbol of God; and myrrh to remind one of death and mortality. There perhaps lies the cue as to why gift-giving during Christmas has such a central place.
Gift giving, continues today; but unfortunately the gift today is merchandise which has to be purchased by the shops that lure us; by the tinsels and baubles; the advertisements and commercials; the discounts and the sales. The gifts today come with a price-tag; often very expensive! It is no longer the giver that counts but the value put on the materiality of the gift! If the gift is wrapped in an attractive paper and tied with the right ribbons then there is added value to the gift! After all, in a highly commercialized and consumeristic world we are made to believe that branding and presentation is what matters most.
What we all need to realise that the real gifts of Christmas have nothing to do with the material of this world; they are not gaudy or glitzy; they are not sophisticated or expensive. These gifts cannot be purchased in a super mall or even in a Christmas bazaar. They are there for the asking: for giving and receiving! They are totally free: one only needs the humility, the transparency and the courage to see them as the real gifts of Christmas
Christmas is Jesus! The most complete and precious gift of the season; a non-negotiable! There is no Christmas without Jesus. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."(Jn3:16). The essence of Christmas is that Jesus comes to us as our Saviour. Sadly we live in a world which has very systematically taken Jesus out of Christmas. We are made to believe that Santa Claus and Christmas trees; the jazzy lighting and the heavy decorations are all that matter. We conveniently forget that Jesus was born in a manger in the midst of stench and squalor. Mary and Joseph did not even have enough of clothing to wrap up their just-born child. Jesus is indeed the greatest gift of Christmas!
Christmas is Joy! The Joy to the world as revealed centuries earlier by the Prophet Isaiah (9:1-7). The angels proclaim this joy on a melodious note, Glory to God in the highest (Lk.2:14). The specificity of this joy is that the ones who receive these glad tidings first are the shepherds. It is an extraordinary gift for these poor, simple, ordinary folk who live a tough life on the periphery of society; people who are marginalized and vulnerable yet are pure of heart. It was a totally unexpected gift: but perhaps the best gifts, the most meaningful accolades, are those we never expect! The ways of God are strange: he lifts these ordinary folk with the good news through the angels. Their hearts are filled with joy! The only way they can express this gift is to run in haste and worship Jesus the Saviour. The gift of unbounded joy-beautifully wrapped in simplicity and spontaneity, poverty and magnanimity!
Christmas is Peace! A gift given to all by the angels as they sing And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased”. A vibrant, living peace: a peace which is not the prerogative of a few, but needs to be shared with all! In the context of what is happening in our world today: it is a gift which we all desperately need! Peace in our hearts, peace in our families, peace in our neighbourhoods, peace in our countries, peace among warring nations. A peace which silences conflicts and the military-industrial complex. We are all called to be channels of Gods peace: just like the shepherds that first Christmas night. To be bridges, to heal our broken world, to be reconcilers in the midst of divisiveness and fragmentation, to be merciful yet courageous to take a stand, when those around, make hate and violence their primary aim. It is a gift from Jesus Peace be with you! My peace I leave! My peace I give you!”
Christmas is Tenderness! Mary, the mother of Jesus embraces her newborn with the gift of tenderness. Her tender loving care of her son is a gift to the world. It is a gift which Pope Francis has been constantly speaking about- the revolution of tenderness. In a TED talk on 26 April 2017, Pope Francis said, “And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Mary epitomizes this tenderness. She is the revolutionary of tenderness. A gift we need to willingly and gladly share today with many.
Christmas is Hospitality! The manger was a warm and welcoming place for Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus! There were surely the animals in the stable but there must have been some poor people there that night too, who looked after the animals. These were the people who made Mary as comfortable as possible, so that she could give birth to Jesus. They would have given of their all to these strangers who earlier had the terrible experience of being told that there was no room to stay in the inn. Later on, the Holy Family had to seek refuge in Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of King Herod! There in Egypt they once again found welcome and hospitality. Our world today has millions of refugees and other forcibly displaced; unfortunately, there is a growing rise of xenophobia, racism, jingoism, bigotry, exclusiveness and discrimination. The Gift of hospitality, the courage to welcome strangers and make them feel at home in our midst is what Christmas is all about!
Christmas is all these gifts and much more! The gifts of love and fellowship; of mercy and reconciliation; of sharing and caring; of justice and solidarity; of dignity and equity; of hope and life. The list is endless. These are gifts which no money can buy! There is no sales- pitch or advertisements. These are gifts of the spirit which have to reflect in our attitudes and essentially be translated into substantial action. They have to be internalized and mainstreamed; joyfully and lovingly shared with others. Christmas is Christmas only when we have the courage to gift Jesus and the values of his Kingdom: Joy, Peace, Tenderness, Hospitality and the rest, unconditionally to those around us!
---
*Human rights activist, currently based in Lebanon, engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.

Story of a foot soldier of Gujarat riots coming from a vulnerable community, Chharas

By Rajiv Shah
He is one of the more prominent "foot soldiers" of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Suresh Jadeja, alias Langdo, alias Richard, is indeed a well-known name in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 persons were killed on February 28, 2002, the first day of the riots that shook the nation. Ordinarily, such a person should have been subjected to sociological scrutiny. What have here is a keen journalistic account, with clear political-ideological overtone.