What significance does the celebration of Christmas have for us in India this year?
In a country where 25th December is being promoted by the Government as Good Governance Day, when in reality the large body of citizens is being adversely affected by the political manipulation of governance, the message of Christmas comes to us in Isaiah 9:6-7
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
In a country where fundamentalism and communalism are breeding hatred, intolerance and violence, Ephesians 2:14-19 reminds us about the importance of Jesus:
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it . . . for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,
When in our country many (the poor, women, children, dalits, tribals/adivasis, the disabled, the discriminated, the stigmatized . . .) are becoming victims of the policies and strategies of development, Mary brings a message of transformative hope for the oppressed and the downtrodden in Luke 1:46- 53
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
In times of natural calamities, be it floods or drought, the Christmas message is that God is Emmanuel “God with us”.
Indeed the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Here is God pitching a tent in our midst and travelling with us through all the “wilderness” calamitous experiences of life. This Jesus assures us, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt.28:20)
In a world where humans are struggling with suffering and sin, the Christmas message as recorded in Hebrews 2:17-18 and Hebrews 4:15-16 is
Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come; let us receive him in our hearts, families, communities and all creation!
Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
National Council of Churches in India.