Once again we have come to the season of Christmas, and we do so with a feeling of fatigue having been bombarded by Christmas music for almost two months as the commercial world seeks to turn up the hype.
In our increasingly consumerist society, many have been spending beyond their income, while others have used up the resources which are intended to sustain them when the New Year begins.
We are increasingly concerned about being politically correct, and so we are wishing each other “Happy Holidays”, as a reference to Christmas may be deemed offensive to those we greet. So while as Christians, our focus should have been on preparation and expectancy which the four Sundays of Advent call us to observe, many of us have lost a sense of what this season is all about.
St. John 1:14 captures for us the essence of the Christmas story:
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Stripped of all of the frills, Christmas is basically a narrative which proclaims the good news of God’s self-giving love and peace for humanity as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enters into the life of the earth, with all its attendant risks, in the form of a vulnerable human person. It shows that God in Jesus Christ is now to be found in the midst of humanity, especially among the dispossessed, the marginalized, and the disregarded ones.
Sensitivity for the Dispossessed
To claim to believe in the incarnation, and hence a faithful observance of Christmas, is at the same time to commit ourselves to a radical path of self-giving love and peace. This love moves us beyond the routine gift-giving among our friends and families. It is also more than the annual feast for the poor, the aged and the destitute. It is a call to a heightened sensitivity at this season, and throughout the year toward those who yearn to be touched by our love, whether in thought, prayer, or action.
So as we celebrate Christmas 2018, let us consider the children of our nation and the world. In particular, let us remember children who suffer abuse and neglect; those who have been left without one or both parents as a result of criminal activities; children who have been traumatised by witnessing the violent death of a parent, or who have lost their childhood innocence by being exposed to experiences which are not befitting for children. Let us remember also, in our increasingly globalized world, the children whose emaciated bodies we see projected on television each night, as so-called “civilized societies” treat them as pawns and collateral damage in a war that is supposed to bring peace. Neither can we forget the children in the caravan on the border of the United States of America who are fleeing the violence and oppression of their native lands and who are being faced with hostility and violence. They yearn to experience a world of love and peace.
Equally, there are adults in our nation who are invisible, marginalized, forgotten and abandoned as we pursue an agenda of economic transformation and prosperity. The mentally ill continue to be the objects of abuse even as they roam our streets; the elderly and the destitute live under deplorable conditions and may only have their fortunes reversed if their story gets the attention of the media; human beings are trafficked as they seek the elusive path to a better life; and many go to bed hungry or just struggle to live below the poverty line. Across the world, tens of millions of people are displaced or live as refugees as their lives have been uprooted because of war, natural disasters, poverty and the lack of opportunities for making a living.
While we may not be able to give material gifts to all who are in need, we can offer that more important gift of ourselves through the pursuit of peace, our presence, our prayers, our advocacy on their behalf, our friendship, our moral support and our protection. These are gifts which all of us can offer, not just at Christmas but throughout the calendar year. So, whether we are people blessed with material resources or not, may we all give this Christmas in the true spirit of the One who is at the heart of Christmas, and who declared in John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
May you and yours have a blessed and gift-filled Christmas.
The Rt. Rev. Howard Gregory
Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands