For an increasing number of persons in our contemporary world, the Christmas story of the birth of the Christ Child has become so commonplace that they have opted to focus, instead, on the tangential aspects of the celebration. These include, for example, Christmas music, rather than the traditional hymns and carols; the festivities and social gatherings; the politically correct form of greeting during the Season, namely, “Happy Holidays”; and the enjoyment of the vacation days.
For others, there is a spirit of cynicism which sees much of the Christian observance of the Season, with its charitable expressions, as a hypocritical once per year focus, and so, they move toward a position of disengagement.
And yet, like so much of the Judeo-Christian Scripture, the narrative which is at the heart of the Christian celebration of Christmas still has the power to engage, challenge, and confront those who would seek to give attention to the divine initiative and revelation of love, compassion, and hope which constitute the core of the Christmas story.
This Season calls us to perceive and to experience God in human form, as both his divinity and his humanity come together in the birth and life of Jesus.
The birth narrative in St. Luke 2:1-14 occurs in the midst of the rawness of human experience of marginalization, exclusion and vulnerability. For those in our world who have great regard for status, power and wealth, the birth of Jesus, affirmed by Christians as the manifestation of the initiative of God, in a Palestinian setting among a colonized people, has no appeal. By their standard, God should have chosen a more appealing channel to reveal Himself to be really credible.
But, the story in St. Luke is about an ordinary couple which is anticipating the birth of a baby and who find themselves displaced by the orders of the ruling authority, King Herod. We live in a world today in which millions of persons are refugees, fleeing decrees or actions by governing authorities in their own land or by external rulers.
Like the displaced people in our world today, Mary and Joseph desperately searched for the hospitality that would allow a decent birth for their child. Instead, they were relegated to a place with the animals. Not only was it an unhealthy environment; it was also a symbolic statement of the worth and value attributed to them.
The marginalized, the excluded and the vulnerable still exist in Jamaica today. They are present in our rural communities; the inner-city, with poor social infrastructure and services; and they are the victims of gang violence and control fostered by partisan politics. The elderly who are abandoned by relatives because perhaps, they have become a burden; and the countless children in our country who are subjected to abuse, violence, and murder reflect a society that is comfortable providing hospitality for some in the Inn, while relegating others to the stable among the animals.
We who acknowledge our affinity with the Christ child who we claim as Lord of our lives, are called to be the agents and instruments of the good news of Christmas; and in so doing, to transform the life of the marginalized, excluded and the vulnerable in our society.
May this experience of good news, joy, and peace, attend you and your loved ones this Christmas and throughout the coming year.
The Most Rev. Howard Gregory
Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands
Archbishop of the West Indies, Primate & Metropolitan