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WHAT’S CHRISTMAS ALL ABOUT?

By Barnes Mawrie

Many must have read the famous story “The Christmas Carol” of Charles Dickens which has been made into a beautiful animated movie by Walt Disney. The story presents a penchant message of Christmas. In the story we have the protagonist, Mr. Eleazar Scrooge who was a rich miserly money lender. He was an exacting man who did not have any kind thought for the poor and miserable folk of his town. Christmas season had no meaning for him except to make more money. On Christmas eve when the town’s folk were making merry and celebrating, Mr. Scrooge was unhappy and wore a long face. But on Christmas eve he had a horrifying vision in which he was shown all the misdeeds he had committed against the poor and the imminent death he would have to experience. This shook him up and he repented and changed his life. He became a generous man and began helping the poor families to have a good celebration. This brought happiness and smile to his face and he experienced a sense of joy he never knew before.

Christmas is in fact, a feast of “giving.” On this day God gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to our sinful world. This was the greatest act of giving made by God to the whole creation. Secondly, Christmas is also a celebration of Jesus’ total self giving to the world. Thus as St. Paul would say “although he was God, he emptied himself of divinity and took upon himself human likeness” (Phil 2:7). This meant that Jesus in order to insert himself into human society, into our culture, humbled himself so much as to assume a human form. It is this very event, namely, the incarnation of God’s Son among us that we celebrate at Christmas.

That Christmas is a message of “giving” is clear from the tradition of Santa Claus (St. Nicholas). Santa Claus is the neo-personification of St. Nicholas, the good and compassionate bishop who had great love for the poor and would secretly drop gifts into poor homes. So even today, children would pray to Santa Claus to come and bring them Christmas gifts. There is a beautiful tradition on every Christmas day in the basilica of Santa Maria Trastevere in Rome, wherein the whole basilica is turned into a mighty lunch hall and the poor people of Rome are invited to a free meal and are given gifts. It is part of Christmas tradition all over the world, that Christians display a sense of solidarity with the poor by visiting old age homes, hospitals, orphanages, slums etc.

It is opportune that Pope Francis has declared this year, a year of the poor and inviting people all over the world to show solidarity with the poor and marginalized. This is truly celebrating the spirit of Christmas. In our country India, where we see so much of disparity between the rich and the poor, such a message is very relevant. A vast majority of our population live in misery and are underprivileged while a handful of people live in exaggerated opulence. Even in our own city, we see such a socio-economic phenomenon. There are families owning thousand acres of land, while many others own not even a square feet of land. There are those who live in royal mansions while others live in rented ramshackle structures prone to any calamity. It is in such an unjust socio-economic system that this Christmas message of “giving” and “sharing” needs to be resounded more. There is need to change our attitude from “grabbing” to “giving.” Rephrasing the quote of Gandhiji, I may say “there is enough wealth in India for everyone’s need but not enough for anyone’s greed.” Let this Christmas message touch the heart of every citizen of this country, so that we may learn to give more and expect less. Let us not forget that “there is joy in giving and sharing than in anything else.”

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