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We are all in 
the big picture

Jesus was born on Christmas Day in humble circumstances, of a mother temporarily displaced from her home and without even the most basic amenities available, either for the birth or looking after her newborn child.

She and Joseph were people on the move, a tag that describes an ever increasing number of people in our world today that has been used by successive popes to describe their greater than usual need for the pastoral care of our Church.

Pope Pius XII began speaking of the great need that people on the move have for pastoral care and support (Exsul Familia, 1952), which was ultimately enshrined in Church pastoral practice in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, with the establishment of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our saviour. He was on the move, a fringe dweller in the society of his time. His birth and early childhood, together with the thrust of his teaching during his public ministry brought a new dignity to people on the fringes of society. He took them out of the small picture and put them into the big picture.

During the past six months in Hong Kong there has been much talk about the human and legal rights of people belonging to minority groups. A commonly repeated phrase is the big picture, used to somehow release society from an obligation towards some of its members on the grounds that it would upset the status quo.

It can be easy to hint at acknowledgement of fair treatment on the one hand, but then duck responsibility on the basis of the big picture. This somehow places the rights of people in the small picture and surreptitiously elevates utilitarianism to the level of wisdom.

People on the move are often considered to be the most vulnerable of people, away from home, away from country and away from the culture and customs in which they are comfortable.

But there are many vulnerable groups in any society, some of which carry stigmas from the past or are simply pushed aside on the basis of their education level or lack of economic productivity, or ability to consume.

Unconsciously, they are sacrificed in order that the majority may prosper. However, the New Testament does pose the question, “Is it right that one man die for the good of the people?” and then answers its own question with an unequivocal no.

The life and death of the saviour, whose feast we celebrate at Christmas with much fanfare and even the call to place those generally excluded from mainstream society into public focus for a while, is a direct challenge to what has become known as the big picture.

However, the life of Jesus challenges us to go much further. His welcome to the poor and, outcasts of his day tells us that all people are equal in the eyes of God and consequently should be equal, not only before the law, but in their right to the esteem of society.

Christmas is a celebration of the unqualified value of every single life. It is a challenge to governments to legislate inclusively, to embrace all levels of society in the distribution of its resources, and it is a challenge to every group and individual to remember that we all belong to the big picture. JiM