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Christmas reminds us of Fr Stan Swamy, other bravehearts incarcerated 'illegally'

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* 

Christmas is for the bravehearted: those who see and welcome the ‘strangers’ in their midst, those who have come from a different part of the country, to deal with the cumbersome process of having their names registered in the Census operations. The locals have already taken a stand against the unconstitutional Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and now make every effort to ensure that no one is excluded from Census; in particular, the poor and the vulnerable, those caught up in and impoverished by the rising costs; those who live on the peripheries.
Christmas is for the bravehearted: who create space in their homes for the weary travellers, a bedraggled couple, who have journeyed through many difficulties. He is aged, she is heavily pregnant. They have been knocking from door -to-door for a place for the night; but sadly, in vain. All are very busy preparing for ‘Christmas: cleaning, decorating and illuminating their homes, making sweets, rushing to the tailors for their new clothes, to the mall to buy the last-minute expensive gifts. One tramp however, who points to the possibility of some place far away outside the town.
Christmas is for the bravehearted: as the couple makes their way to the periphery, they find a stable. The caretaker is fully inebriated, but that does not deter his goodness. He unlocks the stable so that the exhausted couple are able to sit in the warmth and comfort of the hay. He shares his evening meal and his water with them. Finds some swaddling clothes because he understands that there will soon be a new arrival. The animals who are inside know that they will soon be part of a defining moment of history. The stench and squalor of the stable give way to sweet fragrance and goodness. This moment is not meant for the heartless!
Christmas is for the bravehearted: listening to the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will!” The angels are in unison and their song is harmonious! Their message is unequivocal: the glory of God which complements the need and importance of peace and goodwill for all men and women. This is easier said than done! In a world which is divided and fragmented, where hate speech and violence gain legitimacy, where ‘the other’ is denigrated and demonized with ease – what one yearns for is for a peace which is vibrant, which is inclusive and transcends the pettiness of our world today!
Christmas is for the bravehearted: the shepherds who listen to, internalise and actualise the song of the angels. They were ordinary, rugged folk who lived on the hill-side. When they hear the good news of the birth of the Saviour by the angels, they leave their sheep behind and go in haste to worship the new-born! They are joyously spontaneous in their response. There is no pretence or shallowness in their deed! There is clarity in their goal and they reach their destination! One is reminded of our protesting farmers who inspite of great difficulties courageously succeeded in having the anti-farmer laws revoked, sometime ago!
Christmas is for the bravehearted: the Magi are wise people, who physically lived in a distant land. Though they were rich, they had a singular mission in life: a relentless search for the truth and for the Messiah, who would be that truth. They go all out of their way to find him and give him of their best! The Magi find solace and spiritual fulfilment when they encounter Jesus. They realise that having found the truth they have to take a stand for justice. They return by another way demonstrating the unflinching courage not to succumb to the manipulative and murderous mechanisms of Herod. They take a stand for the minorities, the excluded and the exploited, for all victims of injustice! They remind us of Fr Stan Swamy, the others incarcerated in the Bhima-Koregaon conspiracy case, and the many bravehearts, illegally imprisoned because they took a stand for human rights, justice and peace!
Christmas is for the bravehearted: like the people of Egypt. A refugee couple with a little babe, arrive in their midst, with practically nothing! The trio has had an arduous and long journey through hostile terrain. They were forced to flee from their native land because of the vengeful plot by a tyrant. They were refugees but the Egyptians treated them as their own: warmly welcoming them into a society which would ensure their protection and security. Millions of migrants and refugees today, the ‘nowhere people, victims of war and persecution desperately seek refuge in a foreign land. Some bravehearts do welcome them!
Christmas is for the strong who can honestly sift through the material and mundane of the world
Christmas is for the bravehearted: and of course, there is Joseph! He is the foster-father of Jesus has always been referred to as a just man. He dreams and lives the impossible dream believing in the dignity, equity and the rights of all! From the moment, Mary was betrothed to him, Joseph was confronted with a host of sensitive issues. He had to make very difficult decisions; every decision of his would impact on Mary or Jesus or on both them, in a profound way. He did so with a great sense of prudence and responsibility and after much discernment. The Biblical righteous ness (justice) was his forte; he was imbued with a tremendous sense of justice
Christmas is for the bravehearted: so beautifully epitomised by Mary. She is chosen by God as the mother of Jesus. It is certainly not easy for her to accept this heavy responsibility. After due discernment, she willingly and courageously accepts Gods will. Her yes is unconditional! She then goes in haste to be with her kinswoman Elizabeth; in her old age, Elizabeth has conceived and will soon become the mother of John the Baptist. As she embraces Elizabeth, Mary sings the Magnificat -- a prophetic and courageous song for change! During the birth of Jesus and till the very end of her life on earth, Mary radiates this braveheartedness.
Christmas is for the bravehearted: for those who recognise Jesus in the Crib, as the saviour of the world! Christmas is for the strong who can honestly sift through the material and mundane of the world, which has relegated Christmas to Santa Clauses and Christmas trees, to eating, drinking and dancing, to new clothes and expensive gifts, to decorations and illuminations, to splurging and merry-making. Christmas is for the bravehearted who understand that the birth of Jesus is about enabling and ensuring truth, justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, inclusiveness, joy, love, peace in our broken world today. Christmas is indeed for the bravehearted who have the courage to put Christ back into Christmas!
*Human rights, reconciliation & peace activist/writer



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