Saturday, December 24, 2011

True meaning of Christmas: Message for all

Courtesy - Daily News -

Rodney Martinesz

Another Christmas is upon us with the cheery festive mood evident all around. The city is thronged with last minute shoppers and business is brisk, from the humble pavements to the giant shopping malls.Christmas perennials blare forth from the ubiquitous record bars and sundry shops sending the Christmas feeling coursing through one's veins.

Scented cypresses are sold on pavements and sidewalks to buyers in a rush.Rubicund apple cheeked Santa Clauses beam out of shop windows advertising the latest brands and the people's faces mirror a general air of gaiety and joy.The holiday mood has engulfed one and all with the atmosphere thick with the feelings of joyful expectation at the dawn of yet another Christmas.

Present day Christmas festivities have come a long way from those Yuletides of yore when things moved at a leisurely pace albeit with brisk activity in the days leading up to Christmas.For the very young, in most Christian families, the December vacations herald the Christmas season with parents too reserving their quota of leave for the Christmas season to embark on the much looked forward to Christmas shopping.

Those were the days when shopping was done at leisure unlike today's mad scramble in keeping with the fast pace of present day life.The lavish bonuses dished out by the many Mercantile firms also made Christmas a big occasion for celebration. Christmas shoppers also had their favourite stores in the past unlike today where everything could be bought under one roof. Alas most of these landmarks are no more although most old timers speak of them with a sense of nostalgia.


Christmas was also a much looked forward to event in the now almost extinct burgher community which dominated many pockets in the Colombo North area, notably Hulftsdorph,Princess Gate and Kotahena. For them Christmas was a much looked forward event to be celebrated to the utmost. In fact Christmas was a day of Bacchanal roister where spirits flowed freely. Like the rest, the days preceding Christmas were devoted to stockpiling where the stores were conveyed in rickshaws, a common mode of transport at the time.Central in the run up to the Christmas day was the preparation of the Christmas cake for which the ingredients had been carefully preserved for months.The Breudher was another must in Burgher homes prepared to a special recipe.

Carols was another feature in Burgher homes sung with gusto to perfect harmonising by members of the families and extended families.

The weeks preceding Christmas would normally see carol singers parading the streets in groups donned in fancy attire visiting every home collecting in the process a substantial purse invariably spent on lengthy bouts of roistering. Central to all is the mid night mass where the church overflow with both the faithful and those “once a year church goers”.

Universal festival

It goes without saying that Christmas is a universal festival celebrated across religions, cultures and ethnic boundaries .No matter what gloom has descended Christmas festivities cannot be dampened.That is why even in the throes of the worst economic crisis to hit the Western world Christmas is celebrated without let or hindrance among these societies.

But is Christmas being observed as it should ? Is this great event heralding the peace and joy to the world being abused, its true meaning and the message conveyed by the birth of Jesus in a manger surrounded by cattle and shepherds, distorted and denigrated? Or is it being used as a pretext for another bout of merriment and revelry ?.

Sadly amidst the babel and humdrum, today the underlying message of Christmas is largely lost in the modern age of raw commercialism and the cacophony of the market place. Nay, Christmas today has been made a commodity by the multinational commercial behemoths to rake in inconceivable profits sacrificing the true message of Christmas on the Atar of Mammon.

Today Christmas has been taken for granted as an occasion for revelry and nothing else by a majority of Christians buttressed by the fact it coincides with the year end. Symbols such as the Christmas tree, the crib denoting the nativity, are only tokens for the unbridled jollity. Sadly even the Church today has failed to get across the message to its followers of the true meaning and message of Christmas - the message of sharing and reaching out to the poor and the deprived.Here too only token concession is made with the larger picture subsumed in the festivities and merriment.

The level of commercialisation of Christmas can be seen by the giant structures of the nativity scenes adorning the frontage of supermarkets and city shopping malls, symbols of ostentation and profiteering. Santa Clause is but a clownish figure doing his thing opposite shops and store fronts.

The time has come to rescue Christmas from the grip of mammon and revisit the true meaning and message denoted by the coming of Christ to this world.

Christmas should be salvaged from the unbridled commercialisation to which it has fallen in this day and age. A huge responsibility devolves around the church leaders and leading Christian figures to redeem Christmas from the current decadence.While celebrations are quite in order as meriting such a momentous occasion Christmas should not be degenerated to a commodity to be exploited by the unscrupulous and the mendacious.

It is time that the essential message of Christmas be dinned into Christians with more emphasis and vigour by the guardians of the faith so that we would all be enriched and inspired by the lasting message of that far away first Christmas and make Christmas a more meaningful event in the hearts and minds of all Christians instead of letting temporary, fleeting pleasures override us blinded by the tinsel and chrome,the baubles and the gee gaws, that have come to characterize this momentous event

Christmas - manifestation of God’s love in a troubled world

E. Weerapperuma

God is love. The extra-ordinary Birth of Jesus Christ from the womb of a Virgin is a splendid manifestation of God's love. We, the Catholics, the Christians and the men, women of good-will celebrate this eventful birth, Christmas, every year. Jesus Christ is the central figure in the whole celebration and without Him, there is no Christmas.

Jesus Christ was not born into a peaceful world. It was in trouble and in a chaotic mess. But the men of good will of the day, hoped against hopes for a Messiah, a Saviour into this chaotic and trouble world, since the day of the fall of our first parents.

They ignite the wrath of God, the creator when they disobeyed Him.

Though God threw away them, from the Garden of Eden, the merciful God creator promised a saviour and in celebrating Christmas, we recall to mind that promise of God and its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus Christ in the manger.
The will of God

Christ did not choose royal palace, or the lineage of the royalty though He was connected to the clan of David, the King, to be born to this world. He preferred a poor Carpenter Joseph to be His Foster Father and Mary, a young virgin His earthly Mother. They lived a hand to mouth life sharing and experiencing the poverty of the majority of their time and Mary stands in the trio, the outstanding and extra-ordinary figure, as for her total submission to the Will of God had paved the way to implement the plan of God for humanity of the past the present and the future.

Her submission-fiat is the key word of the celebration of Christmas which has been disfigured today, and the event been far too commercialized to the extent that we have lost or buried the real meaning of Christmas.

When Mary, a Virgin who had not known a man when the Angel of God greeted her to announce what God has planned and when she in all her innocence inquired how what the Angel said could come true, she being a Virgin, she was told in plain language that everything was possible to God and informed that her Cousin Elisabeth was pregnant and was in her sixth month. And Mary said “I am the hand-maid of God-May Thy Holy Will be done”, writes the scribe of the Sacred Scripture.

Look at Joseph, the Carpenter. He is advised in a dream by the Angel of God to accept Mary with a child as his wife and we read from that time onwards He was troubled with the responsibility on his shoulders. He takes the wife close to give birth to infant Jesus to Bethlehem. They were not welcomed and Mary gives birth to her infant child in a shed, not with men and women surrounding her in a alien country, but with cows and calves in the manger. The birth takes place, in the pretty cold atmosphere both a fact of nature and figuratively manifested the cold-feet of the people who refused to provide shelter to the woman in her last stages of pregnancy. They wanted no trouble. They did not want to bother!.

Joseph was troubled again. Hostility was growing against the birth of his Son. He was advised in a dream to fly away with the mother and Child to avoid the sword and for the safety, until further notice.

We celebrate Christmas today, pushing all that happened in history to the back door and the atmosphere of celebrating that birth of Infant Jesus is coloured and disfigured with much commercialization.

Christmas has meaning in relation to the paschal event of Suffering, Death and Resurrection of young man Jesus in His thirties and if we lose sight of that, there is no meaning to our celebration of Christmas. Christmas is, because of Easter. If there is no death there is no Resurrection and if there is no Resurrection, our faith has no meaning, St Paul reminds us all.

Christmas we celebrate reminds us of the Second Coming of Jesus in His Glory to Judge the world of the Living and the Dead. The day of retribution. We have to be conscious of that and keep that in our minds when celebrating Christmas.

For He will say “I do not Know You”. “I came in the form of the poor, the naked and the hungry. I was in prison and I was sick. You failed to treat me, visit me and did not bother to care about me and I do not know you!”.

And if we have been liked the wise virgins, the sacred scripture relates, who were conscious that at any time of the day the prince would arrive, we would be fortunate to be called to live and enjoy the privileges of the Kingdom of God!

There is no point and no meaning if we say “I love my God” and forget or ignore pleas of our neighbour who looks for help and protection.

This Christmas we celebrate invites us to recognize Christ in the poor and the needy, in the sick, the marginalized and those thrown to the wayside, in Sri Lanka.

Like in the case of Mary, the Virgin who submitted herself totally to the plan of God unhesitatingly, we whose names are written on the palm of the Divine, are also called to give ourselves to God in all what we do, to spread His Message of Love, to our immediate neighbourhood first and foremost and to the world at large.

When Christ was born, the world was in trouble and that troubled world continues even to this Christmas day and we feel the pressure of that situation even in Sri Lanka, our Motherland. Catholics, Christians and those men, women of Goodwill who claim to be the sons and daughters of this land have a duty as children of light to be the torch-bearers, to enkindle the world with words and deeds to make a better world to live, for those who are living today and to those who would follow us some day.

If we, the present generation could ensure the prevalence of peace and harmony within the neighbourhood and diffuse the message of love into each and every corner of society, then celebrating Christmas would have meaning to our lives and to lives of our neighbour.

We wish our readers such a Christmas this year !

The Prince and the Follower

Very testing is this Walk with Thee, 
Of well over half a century, 
Bruising has this pledge been, 
To stand close to Thee

But what else could I expect? 
For, Your Way is paved with pitfalls and pain, 
To fully take on which Man’s courage fails

However, it leads to blessedness, 
And Peace which were in Bethlehem’s Stable born, 
When the Word was in Flesh formed, 
And a Second Life was given to Man by God.

Lynn Ockersz