Someone once wondered why in every manger displayed at Christmas there was a bright light on while the rest of Bethlehem was in pitch darkness. Christmas reminds me of when the three wise men followed a shining star that took them to the newborn. Christmas is the story of light, as is Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, and of giving; So is Deepavali, the festival of lights for the Hindus.
To me, the most significant symbol of the nativity commemorating the birth of Jesus is the light displayed in the manger innovatively by the creators of Christian imagery.
Light is life against death. Light is hope that we have against darkness; against the evil and danger that lurks in the dark. Would the Christmas of light come to us this Christmas wherever we may be?
On 25 December each year the world celebrates the feast of Christmas, when Jesus – also called the Prince of Peace – was born. It is said in Isiah 9.6 : and the world rejoiced and cried out, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!” In other words, the spirit of Christmas should essentially bestow peace on earth and goodwill to all humanity. The spirit of Christmas is also “truth” as mentioned in the Holy Quran – that Jesus stood for the word of Allah, or truth: Islamicity.org records that “though Jesus is mentioned by name in twenty-five places in the Holy Quran he is also addressed with respect as: “Ibne Maryam” – son of Mary; as Masi (Heb) Messiah – translated as Christ; “Abd-ullah” servant of Allah; “Rasul -Ullah” – Messenger of Allah. He is spoken of as “the word of God”, as “the spirit of God”, as a “Sign of God”, and numerous other epithets of honour spread over fifteen different chapters. The Holy Quran honours this great Messenger of God, and over the past fourteen hundred years Muslims continue to hold Jesus as a symbol of truth”.
One interpretation of the words of the Old Testament and the Holy Quran is that Jesus – The Ruler of Israel – ruled through peace and truth. This is so pertinent in the current context of the world – of fake news; disingenuity and self-service on the one hand and the brutal destruction of humans and cities on the other. The symbolism of Christmas, particularly in its original setting, brings to bear the real significance of the event as a harbinger of peace and happiness and the heralding of understanding and compassion particularly of those in power toward their fellow beings.
Once upon a time, in the lonely darkness of the mountain lived a little girl with her family, fearful of the secrets of the night which brought invaders who purveyed evil. They were hiding from evil, with no food and shelter. The cold winter chill was gnawing at their emaciated bodies and bones. That night they came and took her away, far beyond this earth. The snow was falling in thick flakes around her and the wind was howling, stopping every now and then as if to catch its breath. She felt lonely and sad. Some distance away, as if suspended in the sky was this white dove who invited the little girl on his back.
The dove rose
towards plumes of white cloud
searching the heavens
for children of God
On his way they met a child
his face in smiles and eyes so wild
a mix of sadness and of joy
was stamped on the countenance of the boy
“Are you God’s child?” inquired the dove
“I am the child of eternal love”
“Pray why is’nt there peace on Earth?”
they inquired with no mirth
“your world does not want peace, dove
nor do they want eternal love
the boundaries you have striven to make
do not admit of give and take
and only those who do suffer
from war and strife would prefer
that peace prevails for all mankind
The dove took the little girl far away from the darkness of the night, into the light. The next morning the little girl was found dead at the foot of the mountain, ravaged by the evil visitation of the night.
The purity of Christmas gives us solace from a world of inequity, corruption and evil. The symbolism of Christmas, particularly in its original setting, brings to bear the real significance of the event as a harbinger of peace and happiness and the heralding of understanding and compassion particularly of those in power toward their fellow beings. Christmas is a time for introspection; of self examination for self worth. It is a time that all of us should demonstrably show our capacity to shed differences and work toward the common human goal of peace. The Christmas season calls us to nurture our boundless spirit of giving, particularly to those in distress.
It is recorded that Jesus talked of famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places (Matt. 24:6-8). This is part of human existence and an unfortunate reality. In the case of the current pandemic, there is one word that will help the world and that is “restraint”. Science advises us that we must restrain ourselves from succumbing to the temptation of celebratory gatherings at Christmas. We must also restrain ourselves from flouting directives whether they be given by our employers in training sessions or by public authorities. However, this is not enough. There is one more word that is inextricably linked to our audacious hope of the return to global health: “responsibility”.
Christians believe that Jesus was born to redeem us from sin and the imperfections of social debauchery. This is the message of Christmas.
We have cling to our audacity that the birth of the Prince of Peace will bring the World together in the New Year and from the ashes of a divided world will rise a united humanity with mutual respect and the abhorrence of self service among nations. Emer de Vattel, in his 1758 treatise Droit de gens – The Law of Nations– enunciated this fundamental principle: “A nation then is a mistress of her own actions as long as they do not affect the proper and perfect right of any other nation – – so long as she is only internally bound, and does not lie under any external or perfect obligation. If she makes an ill use of her liberty, she is guilty of a breach of duty…”
Vattel’s statement meshes well with what President Obama said in his book The Audacity of Hope where he says: “We will need to understand just how we got to this place, this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds. And we will need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break”.
Let us hope the child of eternal love will keep a light on that shines bright, bringing us hope in the coming year.