IT IS the time again for Christian reflection as we contemplate the meaning of God becoming flesh this Christmas season.
Behind the consumerist trappings that distract everyone from the true meaning of the festivities, the narrative of God becoming man is actually the reason for the season’s celebrations. The shared Christian belief provide us with this story that is equal parts miraculous and mysterious.
God himself supposedly descended from heaven to be with mortals in order to directly experience their suffering -the ultimate message being that the creator loves us so much that he sent his son to be with us and teach us how to lead useful lives.
When Jesus as God in the flesh finally walked the earth, he did not hobnob with those in power nor basked in the glory as the Son of God. Instead, he preached among the powerless and commiserated with the sick.
His message was that of selflessness and sacrifice for the sake of others not just for the immediate members of one’s family. He stood up for those in the margins and died at the cross for their cause in order to show everyone how to lead meaningful lives as mortals.
It can even be said that the ultimate Christian message is that we can be a community of believers who practice the same love and devotion to our families towards others.
In other words, I believe Christ’s message is not just about practicing charity to others but something that is a whole lot more comprehensive and even revolutionary.
Christ’s challenge is to open up the whole practices of love and devotion beyond one’s immediate family to include the whole community. The problem during Christmas is that once again the emphasis is the display of love towards one’s inner circle when the message is to expand one’s Christian embrace to include others especially the downtrodden and oppressed.
It was this message that we can be a community looking after each other’s common interest, especially the poor that is most often lost in the frenzy of the season especially when the preferred activities during this time actually subverts this important message in favor of a shallow and temporary displays of solidarity to others.
Individuals, well-off or otherwise, touched by the warm tingling feelings induced by the carols and the lights, conduct once-off feeding activities or give food to the poor, placating their feelings of middle class guilt. The rest of the year the poor struggle on their own because of the structural constraints that make them hungry and disenfranchised and the same generous set could not be bothered.
I am not a theologian but my layman‘s take as a Catholic is to believe that God’s message is that of love and solidarity especially among the suffering and the oppressed.
After having been exposed to the systematic and historical causes of people’s suffering and oppression, I have since been suspicious of those practicing dole-out Christian charity although I recognize that the generosity of others is needed to respond to the concrete and immediate needs of the poor.
I have a deeper respect and admiration to professed Christians who end up not only responding to the hungry but also those who interrogate the social and economic system that keep them hungry in the first place.
To be a good Christian therefore does not just entail a doing the works of a generous heart but also the contemplation of a sound critical mind. The challenge is not just to be good and pious in the eyes of others but more importantly live out the ideal of witnessing for the plight of the oppressed and downtrodden just like Christ did.
There are two impulses that are seemingly in contradiction here – a sense of charity competing with the more challenging and difficult sense of justice. The first pertains to performative displays of one’s Christian impulses while the latter responds to a deeper Christian calling that mimics Christ’s sacrifice at the cross.
Christ did not become flesh and then later on died on the cross just so we can continue with our hypocritical ways putting our respective families first before others. The mystery and miracle of Christ’s journey taking up the cross, which begins during this season when He become flesh, extends beyond being charitable and pious. To my mind, it entails living out the life that Christ Himself lead in pursuit of what is just and fair for everyone. It can be argued, after all, that he was the first revolutionary in both his words and deeds.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 19, 2017.