By Trevis Ranjan Perera
It’s Christmas, once again. The human world is swiftly getting ready to celebrate this ‘Biggest Feast on earth’, once more – with usual pomp and pageant, lavishly spending millions and millions on the festivities, having got trapped in a superficially-inflated commercial set up meticulously crafted by the business world.
At another corner, under the same blue sky, there are millions of helpless people living in absolute poverty, deprived of even the basic human needs, and with no hope whatsoever for the future. Rows and rows of makeshift camps accommodate thousands of destitute people, displaced under war situations, who are compelled to live under extremely unhygienic conditions. These are the people rejected by their very own countrymen at one end, and ruthlessly humiliated at the other. In a world where anxiety, sadness and hopelessness have become the order of the day, where the hatred and resentment reins, and where love and compassion seem to be scarce commodities, here we are, once again getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus – the Prince of Peace – in a big way.
In a sense, Joseph and Mary too were refugees on the first Christmas night. They were travelling “from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem” (Luke 2:4), having to present themselves to be counted (or registered) in a regional survey. They had no relatives or friends to look up to, for help; they had no place to stay the night. Nobody wanted to offer shelter to these strangers. And, worse still, Mary was pregnant and was about give birth to the child she was bearing. Joseph was taking Mary on the back of a donkey, the only means of transport that Joseph could afford to transport his wife to the destination. Joseph was on foot. The couple, on a long and hectic journey, was dangerously exposed to the extreme weather conditions in the cold windy night.
Having failed to find a decent place to stay the night, Joseph finally decides to make a stop-over for the night at a cow’s shed on the wayside. And, that is where Mary delivers Baby Jesus, in the middle of the night.
Now, very often, we try to be judgemental on our fellow beings. We tend to look down upon refugees as condemned people. Some even consider refugees as restless and violent people, with extreme unpredictable behaviour. Recent incidents in France suggest that there may be extremists in disguise as refugees, who would plan attacks on the host countries which have offered to help the displaced people. One may take this fact alone as a good reason not to show any empathy, or to withdraw whatever the concern and compassion one may hitherto have had, towards refugees, in view of imminent danger and hostilities that the hosting communities may have to face as a ‘side-effect’, in trying to accommodate the people genuinely in distress.
Christmas poses us a question: Are we to continue doing good to the less-fortunate and underprivileged people, in spite of the dangers and problems such action may bring our way – or, are we trying to find some excuse to refrain from doing anything to help them in their needs? Remember the words of Jesus: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; Condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:37-38)
Let us take Christmas as a time for re-discovery of our inner-selves. The Advent (period preceding Christmas in the Church Calendar) presents us with an opportunity to have a self- appraisal as to how we have hitherto been conducting ourselves as “humans”, in regard to our attitude towards fellow-beings. How far would we go, to accommodate the less-fortunate around us, and help them out? To what extent are we prepared to sacrifice our own comfort and happiness, for the sake of the needy and the destitute people amongst us? Would you put yourself in their shoes for a moment, and try to experience how much it would take to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:30-31)
Are we ready to take up this challenge in an attempt to welcome Jesus into our lives this Christmas – or, are we going to be satisfied with yet another superfluous “Christmas sans Jesus”?