Today we celebrate the feast of Christmas remembering the first coming of Jesus Christ among us. It is the most popular feast among the Christians. All over the world, this is a family feast, as everybody tries to go home and celebrate it with their relatives and friends. In some way or another every Christian tries to be present with the near ones on the day.
Usually Christian feasts have their background, continuation and development from the Jewish tradition. Christmas has its background from the celebration of the "Victory of the Sun ("Sol invictus') celebrated in Rome. The pagan Romans believed that from the 25th December the daylight started to increase. In the previous day, the night was the longest one in the year. While the night was decreasing the daylight was increasing. For the Romans the astrological phenomenon was a religious one: the victory of the god Sun over the darkness. When the Christian Roman Emperors went to power they substituted the pagan feast with the Christian one.
Christians believe that Jesus is "the light of every human being", his way of living, his teaching, his attitudes and behaviors in the society, his decisions enlighten the lives of many people in the world. In this two thousand years so many people are following his teaching; he is their "guru" and Lord. For this reason, we use to put a big star at the top of our houses to remind ourselves of his birth. We announce the birth of Jesus. Saint Luke in the gospel tells us that when the angels went to announce the event of the birth of Jesus, huge light spread in the night sky and then the angels informed the shepherds who were there, of the birth of Messiah. Then they went to see the child Jesus and adore him.
From very afar three Magi, we believe from the Persian region, three scholars and astronomers followed a big star and arrived at the cow-shelter to see, give respect and adore the child Jesus as their Lord. The big star is not only a sign it is indeed a way to proclaim our faith in Jesus, the Lord, who enlightens every person.
Jesus, when he was born, was laid in a manger, a cow-shelter. He was a poor. At that time there was a census in the Roman Empire and all the men with their families and major aged men were obliged to go to their ancestral homes to give their names. So Joseph went with his wife, Mary/ Mariam to Bethlehem a village near to Jerusalem. From the North region of Galilee Joseph took his wife to home.
Jesus was born in a cow-shelter because of lack of accommodation with his relatives and hostels. When the news of the birth of this important child was known to the bloody king, Herod the Great, wanted to kill him for fear and jealousy. The mother Mary took Jesus to Egypt for some years to save the life of the child. Jesus was a refugee for some time.
After the death of the king, Joseph took his wife and Jesus to his residence at Nazareth, an unknown village in Galilee. A very poor region where the majority number of people were farmers, peasants and shepherds. The land was very productive, but most of the people were illiterate. Joseph the husband of Mary but not the father of Jesus, who is divine, we say non-biological father, was a carpenter, he had a shop. Jesus as the praxis of his time, used to work with Joseph. They lived peacefully together for almost thirty years at Nazareth.
When Jesus heard of the preaching of John the Baptist, decided to go Jericho to listen to him. John invited people to prepare themselves for the imminent coming of the Messiah with good works, avoiding all kinds of injustice and oppression in the society; Jesus followed the people who were there. He baptized them as a commitment from the people to follow his preaching. When Jesus went to receive the baptism, the Baptist announced the people that the person who was among them and he was baptizing, was the Messiah. He had had a divine revelation before to say so.
In his preaching, Jesus made known the attention and the nearness of the Almighty toward every human beings all over the world, especially for those who are sinners, for one reason or another were and are oppressed, set a part in the society, downtrodden. The Gospel says to us he was very keen in attending to the religious celebrations of his people, but he had also a "special eye" for the excluded from the society because they did something wrong and were punished by it. He knew the heart of these people and he had the courage to invite them to go back to Almighty God, the merciful and full of compassion. He spent time with them, had meal with them, became their friends. He invited them and now invites us to be careful and rely on God when we do something wrong. Jesus tells us that the Almighty has a great heart, larger than every human and forgive our sins.
The Messiah did not despise and now despises the religious people, those who faithfully and with sacrifices love the Almighty, attend the religious celebrations, but he invites us to be compassionate with others, as many times the circumstances and situations, whatever they could be, make us bad people. In his teaching he reiterates that "Fortunate are those who have the spirit of the poor, for they will be called "children of God" which means "faithful disciples of God".
In this statement Jesus tells us to be attentive to the poor, to take care of them as long as we can. In his life on earth, he did so and invites us to do the same. When we give attention to the poor, really we give attention to the human being as such beyond his race, sex, census, religion, nationality. In the Bengali literature, there are many outstanding writers and literary movements which see every human being as the supreme value; beyond him nothing stands. "The highest truth is the human being" Chondidash says.
Jesus in his teaching and the great writers of this country are in the same boat and they take us to the same aim. Unfortunately for us and our children, nowadays, the way people behave is much different; in the world there is an ethical crisis where only money is the king of the society and of humans. And what about the poor and the weak? Who will take care of them as the Almighty does? At the end many of us are not happy!
In Dhaka, at the gathering of the people and inter-religious dialogue leaders, after listening personally and speaking with the Rohingya, Pope Francis said: "Many of you told me about the Bangladeshi big heart that has welcomed you (Rohingya). The presence of the Almighty today is also called Rohingya. Let us continue to do good for them and to help them. Let us continue to work actively for the recognition of their rights". Then the Pope invited the imam to pray asking for the help of the Almighty and concluded the meeting. The Christmas celebration may help us to build up a good society where respect for each and every person, even the poor, is a personal commitment.
The writer is Director of Inter-religious Dialogue Center, Khulna
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