Christmas brings to our mind a sense of festivity, celebration and exchange of gifts. It is the celebration of God’s Mercy on the humankind manifested in sending His only Son. It the exchange of God’s gifts the only Son for the tainted humanity, so that everyone may be saved. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
The book of Genesis begins with the story of creation. The love of God was so great that He created the human being in his own image and likeness (Gen 1:26). This tells us that we are created for incorruption and eternal like Him (Wis 2: 23). The will of God is that we be the reflection of His presence in the world. But the human being forgetting the love of the creator craved for the world and its pleasures (1Jn 2:15-16). Thus death and corruption entered the world (wis 2:24). God in His loving mercy did not abandon the humankind to corruption. God in His goodness and mercy willed to redeem humanity through His only Son. The promise is fulfilled at the virgin birth (Mt 1:23). Christmas recalls the fulfillment of the loving mercy of God. Thus celebration of Christmas is the celebration of the Mercy of God on humankind through His Son. It is the night which the almighty chose to give human face to His mercy. It is the night in which joy and hope came upon all the sorrows and desolation of human beings since their fall.
Christmas becomes meaningful when we manifest the loving mercy of God in our daily living. I remember a story read long ago. I do not remember the source or the author. However this story can inspire us at Christmas. Once at Christmas a grandmother went to the gift shop to buy some gifts for her grand children. As she was scanning through the gifts on display in the shop for the best gift for her grandchildren, her eyes fell on a little girl in the cold, shabby and famished, standing outside the shop looking steadily at the lady in the shop. Feeling compassion for the child she went out and took the child by her hand and led her into the shop and told her that she could pick up whatever she wanted. The little girl with a pleasant surprise on her face looked through the items and took a little doll. The lady bought gifts for her grandchildren and paid for everything. As they were coming out of the shop the little girl breaking the silence asked the grandmother, “Are you God?” the lady replied with a smile on her face, “No, I am not God but, I am a child of God.” the girl responded, “ I knew you have some relationship with God.”
We who have a relationship with God can’t but, manifest the merciful face of God. Our God is merciful to us not because we merit it, but because He is God not a mortal (Hos 11:9). We, who have received mercy (Jesus) as a gift, have a duty and responsibility to forward the gift to every person in our lives. St. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:7 “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift”? Christmas become becomes meaningful only we exchange the gift of “Mercy”, with one another, i.e., to be merciful as the heavenly Father is merciful (Lk 6:36), otherwise not we are not worthy to celebrate Christmas. Celebration of Christmas is meaningless without being merciful to one another; spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters. Such celebrations never augment or touch one’s life. Because Christmas is the extension of the compassion marked among the family members in daily living. The family of Nazareth is a model for the mercy and compassion of God distinct among its members. The Mercy and compassion of Joseph towards Mary is a paradigm to be imitated, by every man and woman who enters into the marital covenant. We know how the Holy Family struggled to protect the new born babe. Today the parents themselves become a threat to the children, and do not allow them to be born. The family has become a place where children are no more secure; instead they are abused and destroyed. In such circumstances celebration of Christmas is futile and hypocritical. Thus we make the holy celebration an unholy celebration. The book of wisdom says, “For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness” (Wis 6:10).
Birth of Jesus was in a manger because there was no place in the inn (Lk 2:7). It reminds us that there was no love left in the hearts of people of that time. But what is most distressing situation is that, even today the same continues in the hearts of people, who have experienced the merciful love of the Savior. What a painful sight to see Joseph with Mary (about to give birth to the child) going from door to door knocking. In the book of Revelation the Lord says, “ Listen I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Rev 3:20). Every Christmas is a knock at the heart of each person for compassion, mercy and love. It is a challenge, daily to respond to the knock at our hearts for mercy, compassion and love. The knock comes to us through those who are homeless, those in the streets, the hungry, the sorrowful, the old, helpless and the marginalized. We who turn a deaf year to the cry of every person for mercy, have no right to hear the message of Christmas. Because the very purpose of Jesus’ birth is, “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free”(Lk 4:18). We are unworthy to celebrate Christmas when, we are a cause of captivity and oppression to our own family, brothers and sisters, through our uncontrolled emotions.
The birth of the Child Jesus in a manger (Lk 2:7) proves the profundity of His mercy, humbling himself to be born in a manger. It also discloses the mind-set of those who reject Jesus at any little inconvenience and discomforts of the world. The Lord is grieved at Christmas about such persons. This is expressed in the book of the prophet Isaiah; “the ox knows its owner, and the donkey it master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Is 1:3). Celebration of Christmas becomes significant only if we absorb the attitude of Jesus born in the manger. St. Paul urges every child of God to have the same mind as that of Christ, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8). Every Christmas is a challenge to confirm our mind to the compassionate and merciful mind of Christ.
Christmas night tells us that our God who is merciful sees us always. “God looks down from heaven on humankind” (Ps 53;2). Our God is a God who sees, hears, knows and comes down to deliver. God who appears to Moses in the burning bush says, “ I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their task masters, indeed I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them…” (Ex. 3:7-8). Christmas is the realization of this revelation of God. Thus a sincere celebration of Christmas compels us to emulate the character of Jesus, to observe, hear, and know and to act with mercy in the face of misery and sadness of people. Otherwise, our celebration of Christmas will be without Jesus.
William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States (1843-1901), was going to appoint an ambassador. The two contestants for the esteemed post were equally qualified and they were both close to the President. So, it was a close contest. But, McKinly was quite clear about who he was going to appoint. He later explained his choice with a story. He was travelling in a bus with one of the contestants. An old lady with quite a heavy luggage boarded the bus that was crowded. No seats were vacant. The president’s friend saw her, but did not offer a seat. He simply ignored her and pretended not to see her. When the President had to make a choice, he pretended not to see the friend.
Every other day we bump into people who deserve our love and mercy. But our selfishness and thirst for comforts make us pretend not to see them at all. There would not have been a Christmas if God has chosen to ignore the humankind after their fall, as we ignore each other who need us. Where would we be? Christmas compels us to remember God’s compassion, in our tendency to ignore each other.
Love made visible in action is compassion. Christmas night speaks to us of God’s love. The power of love is so strong that what is impossible is made possible. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Christmas tells us that God loves us and He chooses us because we are sinners. “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mt 9:13). A significant celebration of Christmas reveals our true love of God, which prompts us to think and act like Jesus, the face of God’s mercy.
In this year of mercy let the celebration of Christmas not be one among many celebrations, but, be a unique one that imprints in our hearts the mercy of God, that can’t be deleted. Let this Christmas empower us with His mercy to be the messengers of mercy to everyone, to our family, our community, our parish and society at large. May we all be mediators to bring Jesus into the word of today.
Wish you all a holy and blessed Christmas!
Fr. Tom Kuzhipala SDB