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

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

UK leader cites Indian farmers' struggle one of top global fights against neoliberal order

Counterview Desk  Jeremy Corbyn, member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and founder of the  Peace and Justice Project , in his  inaugural speech to the  Progressive International’s  Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022, has said, what is happening across globe suggests that "image of apocalypse -- bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion -- is a reality for people across the planet." In an adaptation of his speech, distributed by  Globetrotter , Corbyn, however, said, there are fresh examples action, too -- by Indian farmers forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three neo-liberal laws;  by workers, communities and activists against the top giant multinational Amazon's "greed and exploitation"; and by Latin American people's struggle to say "no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments." Stating that this is n

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra*  While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging. The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below: Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of  Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore) By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They