Christmas and the End of Reason!!
Fr. Ashley Miranda SDB
03 December 2022
Few feasts can beat the simple magic of Christmas! Imagine celebrating the birth of the child of nondescript couple in a manger in Bethlehem. This baby, later named Jesus, was born 2000 yrs ago to Mary the wife of a carpenter named Joseph. In the birth of Jesus, the son of God become man, the gap if any between God and man was bridged once and for all. This event that changed the course of human history was described rather provocatively by St. Athanasius and early church father in the following words, " God became man that man might become God." With Christmas, God who was always considered to be one who lived in the heavens came to be understood as 'Emmanuel' [he who dwells among us].
What strikes us about the Christmas scene is its stark simplicity. The couple had very little more than the clothes on their backs but they had their love for each other and that more than made up. The future was unclear but the couple was not anxious because they trusted God's providence and they believed that he would provide. They and their little baby boy had animals [an ox and a couple of sheep] for company and the first people who came visiting were some shepherds watching their flock in the surrounding countryside. An angel had announced to them the birth of the saviour. These simple folk believed and rushed to verify the truth of what they had been told. This humble family was later visited by three men from the east who came to worship the child guided by a star but who later went back home by a different path to escape from Herod who felt so threatened by the birth of this little child that he decided to kill it.
The Christmas story is about little things and ordinary people. It is a testament to the truth that one needs very little to be genuinely happy. It is about love in all its tenderness and faith in fellow human beings and God. It is about finding joy in present and about harmony and unity not only among humans but with all of creation. While, on the one hand, Christmas today still retains its charm and many Christian families still value time spent together, singing Christmas carols, listening to the soulful singing of 'O Holy Night!' after communion at the Eucharist on Christmas Eve, and joining in the traditional Christmas lunch where mutual family affection is one of the main dishes on the menu, on the other hand with the fragmentation of life, changing values, and new understandings of what constitutes family and what we owe to each other, much that is precious is being lost.
In many parts of the world, however, Christmas is just about sparkling lights in shop windows and about buying marathons, about dancing late into the night and ostentatious meals that reflect the flavours of the world but do not have the aroma of home. Nothing wrong with shopping and dancing and festive meals per say, but when Christmas is only about these things and little else then something is really missing.
I received a very interesting advertisement on my phone this morning from an e-commerce company: "The End of Reason Sale" they called their promotion. Creative!! But unfortunately that is precisely the direction where much of life and many of our festivities are headed these days.
We've got to ensure that this Christmas is not an 'End of Reason' Christmas. Christmas is nothing without a spirit of caring, and affection and joy and generosity. Christmas must be about people rather than things. That is the first thing we need to do: bring people back into Christmas, bring the family back into Christmas, bring the little child Jesus back into Christmas.
On the practical level what is it we can do to ensure that we do not end up celebrating an 'end of Reason' Christmas? The things that come immediately to my mind are the following: 1. Try and make Christmas decorations from materials that do not harm the environment. After Christmas take down this decoration carefully so that it could be used again with a little creativity the next year. 2. Buy new clothes this Christmas only if one has to. Ask oneself how many times did I use the dress/suit that I bought last year? Did I use it often enough after Christmas to justify its price? Could I perhaps use it this year as well for Christmas? Is there anything in my wardrobe that i could pass on to a friend or another member of a family? Or is there something I could borrow from a sibling or parent and use for Christmas instead of buying something altogether new that I am not likely to use much after Christmas? 3. Do not be wasteful with food. Enjoying a good meal with other members of one's family and with friends is very much part of Christmas; but throwing away food because one could not eat it or one was stuffed to the gills is contrary to the spirit of Christmas. Share food with some poor family or with some poor people discreetly and purposefully ensuring that the other family or person does not feel humiliated in any way. However, giving food away because it has begun to go bad or as an afterthought is not truly Christmas sharing. 4. Let Christmas be about presence rather than presents. Things that one buys for oneself are not presents strictly speaking, if they are things we do not really require it would be indulgence rather than anything else. Spend time with parents, siblings and good friends, enjoy their company, listen to them, make meaningful conversation. Presence is the best present!! 5. This Christmas, while ensuring that we are sensitive to the special situation of the aged and the sick, let us try to ensure that we do not cause discomfort also to the rest of creation. Turn down the volume of our music systems especially late in the evenings, and refrain from using firecrackers [often used to usher in the New Year] which create a ear-splitting and heart-stopping din.
Let us bring back the magic of Christmas! May our celebration of Christmas help us remember that God dwells among us and that when we genuinely care for one another and go out of our way to help and support one another, we are contributing to creating a better world for all of us.