Christmas contradictions

Rev Fr Paul Lelen Haokip *

An X-mas Star at Lamphel on 19 December 2017
An X-mas Star at Lamphel on 19 December 2017 :: Pix - Wilson

Introduction: Even after celebrating more than 1800 years of Christmas, why there is no peace within oneself and between communities when the Prince of Peace is already born (again and again)?

Why is there 'Peace' only in the cold words written on books but not on the warm hearts of people? These and more could be some of the disturbing contradictions in the hearts of people who celebrate and also for those who don't necessarily adhere to Christianity. I am one such disturbed mind. So, here comes this 'Christmas Contradictions' article.

For the first three hundred years of the Church's existence, birthdays were not given much emphasis, not even the birth of Christ. The day on which a saint died was considered more significant than his or her birth, as it ushered him or her into the kingdom of heaven. Christ's baptism received more attention than his birthday on the January 6th feast of Epiphany.

Imported Bethlehem: To create the Christmas effect, the Bethlehem panorama is usually imported in spirit and by way of imitation. Geographically, Bethlehem is within the borders of Israel, however Bethlehem is in an area called the West Bank which is an autonomous area administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Bethlehem is between Israel and Jordan, West of the River Jordan. The borderline between Israel and the West Bank is not clearly defined and one can pass between Israel and Bethlehem easily, the only checkpoint, and all the security is run by the Israeli Defence Force. Bethlehem is in Western Asia within the country of Israel.

Each year we celebrate Christmas, we are depicting that Bethlehem scene in our own places. In a way, along with this enacting, the violence and contradictions of that first Christmas seem to be present here today and now in new avatars. The prince of peace is born in a manger, the heavenly smell mixes with the smell of the animals. Many innocent babies were butchered by Herod for fear of his slipping-power as the prince of peace is born.

First Christmas proper: Properly, Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus in a Jewish village of Bethlehem. In an old list of Roman bishops, compiled in A. D. 354, these words appear for A.D. 336: "25 Dec.: Natus Christus in Betleem Judeae" meaning December 25th, Christ born in Bethlehem, Judea.

This day, December 25, 336, is the first recorded celebration of Christmas. Now, we have every 25th December. This is a privilege and a time of serious reflections as to whether we are living the Christmas message of Peace or not. Celebration without a message is waste of time and money. It would be a cheap imitation.

Christmas Christians: This is a hard truth. We find some Christians who are found in the Church only during the Christmas time for various reasons known to them. But the interesting thing is this they called themselves "Christians". 'Wow' or 'Woe', which one to attribute to them, I don't know. They have a reason to their act.

Should we not listen out to them? These people are usually quiet and good people but don't join the mainstream very often. Now, for an outsider, this adherence to religion once a while could be intriguing or confusing. Don't you think so?

For some, Christmas is a time of once a year attendance day. Can you really called yourself a Christian if you are present only during the Christmas time celebrations? Discussion and reflection can go on.

Are Christians peaceful: Since I am Christian myself, I may sound biased to answer "Are Christians Peaceful?" So, friends from other faiths, kindly give me (and other Christians) a fitting and genuine answer for our self reflection and action. Anyway, let me critique this question.

Most of the time, majority of the Christians are peaceful during peaceful time but violent during violent time. Here come the power of self restrain and principle-centred personality. Are we violent because of the situation or are we violent by nature? Answers may differ.

If we are violent because of the situation then we are slaves to situation. If we remain calm and seek for peaceful solutions then we are guided by the words of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We are guided by the words of the Bible which propagates peace and shuns violence.

Contradictions to being witness: Every organization or society on this earth has its Vision, Mission and Value (VMV) statements. I believe, the Vision of Jesus was the Establishment of the Kingdom of God.

His Mission was to heal the sick, forgive sinners, propagate peace, and condemn no one. The Values he believed and practised were Love, Charity, Sincerity, Simplicity etc.

If you find people practising these, they are already in the kingdom of God where there is no discrimination based on gender, caste, creed, language, tribe or community. This is truly the Kingdom of God envisaged by Jesus the Prince of Peace.

If you find yourself not practising the VMV of the Prince of Peace then you better go for entire Spiritual Check-up. This check-up can be done personally and quietly. Since we humans are spiritual social beings, we need a spiritual dimension to infuse and enthuse our being to realise the VMV we live for.

Contradictory conclusion: Power is most needed when someone is most unsecured (like Herod). Fame is sought when one has underperformed in earlier days (regain of lost glory). It's a contradiction to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace when one has not willingly opted for Peaceful co-existence within one's own family and society.

Absence of Peace implies that Christmas effect is not achieved. Let us move from being contradiction to being a messenger of Peace like the Prince of Peace. I pray that the warmth of Peace at Christmas is able to warm the cold season of Christmas.

* Rev Fr Paul Lelen Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 26, 2017.

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