At a time when the Roman power was at its peak, the Greek philosophy was flourishing and the Jewish religion looked upon itself as the only revelation of the one pure God, the birth of Jesus comes crashing in as an alternative to the status quo of a disempowering power, disorienting wisdom, and distancing religious experiences.
In the birth of Jesus the nomadic sheep-farming community finds something worthwhile to proclaim to the world. The wisdom of the east identifies in the birth of a baby, and comes seeking, the deliverance of the world. At a time when philosophic, religious and government nexus wielded power to the extent where an alternate could not even be dreamt off, deliverance was identified in Jesus by the belittled, poor, despised nomads, and the citizens of the east.
When hope seemed hopeless the voice in the wilderness identified Jesus as the Messiah of the times. The woman who supposedly lived with many men ran into the city with the message of hope that she had found the Messiah. A visually challenged person Bartimaeus discerned the Messiah in Jesus. The roman soldier who was put on guard until Jesus died cried out that Jesus is truly the chosen one of God. Through the ages and in every generation peoples of no noble birth and nondescript persons have identified redemption and redeemers from among them that can redeem the world. Such astounding wisdom which comes alive in every age and time has the potential to transform peoples into flourishing communities of hope. This we need to celebrate lest it wane into oblivion.
At the close of a stressful year that no one wants to remember and at the threshold of what was expected to be a better year, we are met with a strain – a new strain of the virus that has dashed hopes of respite in the New Year. Wisdom and scientific temper, human understanding and intellect, are all stretched to the limit. The virus mutates and still evades us. Depressed and disappointed the world is aghast with desperation.
Christmas reminds us that agrarian and farming communities and the wisdom from eastern traditions have much to offer for renewal and recouping. Their wisdom in identifying Jesus as the Christ has stood the test of times – for more than 2000 years of Christian witness through successive generations. There is immense wisdom in the farming community, the poor, the worker, the young, children, women, people with disabilities, persons of different gender identities and sexual orientations, and all such despised persons and communities.
Christmas beckons us to get back to the drawing board, evaluate structures and systems that have betrayed us and, on the terms of and along with victim and vulnerable communities, work on building sustaining and life flourishing communities. It is a call to be prophetic and pragmatic. Let us therefore bow before the manger of this astounding wisdom; the wisdom that exemplified at the first Christmas, was relevant through the ages, and that which stands out as the hope of any possible future.
May we be blessed at Christmas and all through the New Year.
Rev. Asir Ebenezer
National Council of Churches in India