CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 June 2017

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The freedom of Christmas

There is a lot about Christmas that the world doesn’t know, doesn’t want to know or conveniently forgets. And that is the Christ in Christmas was a person, fully human and son of God.

The sweet baby Jesus in the Christmas manger was born in poverty among peasants, faced death threats and assassination, was a refugee and asylum-seeker in a foreign land. 

The baby from Bethlehem, became the man from Nazareth, who grew up to be the fiery prophet, the calm peace-maker, the loving friend, the healer of the sick, the hope of the hopeless and the shepherd of the lost.

He was the bane of the rich and powerful. He is the young man that was kicked out of his local
synagogue in Nazareth and was almost killed for quoting the prophet Isaiah and taking on his mission as his own. He was a real trouble-
maker and rebel to some in his home town.

He read the lesson quoting
Isaiah (Luke 4:4 - 30) from the scripture and he made it his life’s work to bring good news to the poor, telling them in effect that they, the poor, are blessed, precious, and the kingdom of God is for them.

He told the poor, “You are the true children of the father, the
inheritance of the land is yours.” To the religious authorities this was heresy, subversion and close to blasphemy, a crime that carried the death penalty.

In today’s world, defending the poor and the environment can
carry a death penalty. Human
rights advocates, environmentalists, journalists, priests and pastors
are branded as communists and subversives for speaking out for the poor. In some countries, there are martyrs among their number, like Father Fausto Tentorio, who was shot on October 17 for standing with the poor.

In the time of Jesus of Nazareth, there was an elite class that claimed they had a divine right to the kingdom. They constantly thanked God for their blessings. They judged the carpenter’s son, born of a peasant girl, as challenging them by taking the side of the poor and they were angry when he scolded them as hypocrites.

Yet, he didn’t stop. He continued quoting from Isaiah, declaring an end to the captive status of the poor and the oppressed, an end to injustice, slavery of all kinds, freedom for the women and children, a new life for the exploited and those unjustly accused, imprisoned, persecuted and harassed. 

And he declared the freedom of Christmas, so the poor could escape from the clutches of commercial consumerism.

Christmas is about transforming a materialistic world, not joining in the wasteful extravagance. It is a time for family togetherness and peace-making and making commitments to work for a more just society and continuing the work of Jesus, born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but still very much alive today.

It is a time to renew friendship and the values that keep us human and spiritual, united, sane and secure. It is not enough to admire the child
in the manger; we have to imitate him.

Christmas keeps the living spirit of self-giving and caring for others alive in us. Following Christ is to be a washer of feet.