Is 35:1-6, 10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11:2-11
Jesus is the Good News to the poor, the Anawim, the bent, the broken, the battered, the bleeding masses of humanity. Those who are helpless and hopeless, the weak, wounded and weary, the dumb driven cattle, sheep without the shepherd, harassed and worried being led to the slaughter. The voiceless, the defenseless and the friendless. It is to these that Jesus comes bringing new hope, new strength, new life and new human dignity. These are the people who perennially long for freedom; hunger and thirst for justice; deeply desire peace, prosperity and happiness. They are deprived of sight in more senses than one. They are rendered speechless and voiceless in many ways. They are hobbled and handicapped in diverse situations. They are prevented from hearing the Good News of their own liberation and emancipation. These are the people whose hands are weary, whose limbs are limp, whose frames are wasted, whose bodies are ravaged, whose minds are under-strain, whose hearts are broken, whose eyes are dimmed, whose ears are stopped, whose mouths are sealed, whose hearts have grown faint and whose knees always tremble. It is these people, the lost sheep of Israel who are desperately waiting for a new dawn to dispel their dreadful darkness. It is to these people that Isaiah addresses his words of encouragement and hope; “Look, your God is coming to save you”
This message of hope, this promise of salvation, this pledge of imminent coming of God in our midst to break our chains, to open the gates of our prisons, to free us from our slaveries, to heal our wounds, to dispel our doubts, to remove our fears and to rescue us from the power of the Evil One is as relevant and timely today as it was in ancient times during the Exile of the Jewish people in Babylon. In those times too the people were crushed, broken, oppressed, exploited, deprived of human rights and human dignity, treated like chattel, used as cheap labour, enslaved, harassed, tortured and humiliated. In those times of unspeakable suffering and deprivation, violence and humiliation, the exile tenaciously held on to hope – hope in a God who is infinitely loving, good and compassionate; a God who is partial to the poor and the oppressed; a God who hears the anguished cry of the helpless; a God whose heart is moved to save His people from the misery. This is the Messianic Hope of Israel.
This hope has been fulfilled in the coming of God into our midst as a tiny Babe of Bethlehem. Ignatius of Loyola places Christmas in the context of God’s decision to save humankind by means of Incarnational identification with the suffering, tortured masses of humanity. He says that the Triune God gazes in compassion on humanity in pain and resolves to become human in order to redeem humanity from pain and despair.
The Mystery of Bethlehem is the direct consequences of the decision of God’s heart. Contemplating that new born child in the poverty, dampness, dirt and cold of the cowshed, we realize the true meaning of the words: “God loved the world so much that He gave His only Begotten Son for our sake.” Love leads to gift-giving and gift-giving leads to self-giving. In Bethlehem God gives us the greatest gift that He alone could give. Indeed He gives Himself to us in that tiny, helpless, weak Child lying in the manger.
God gives Himself to us so that we may find our way out of the death that seeks to destroy us into the fullness of life that Christ is; out of the darkness that fills and envelops us into the brightness of the splendour of His love; out of the lovelessness that entraps us into the community of love which Christ has built up as the nucleus, the first fruits of His Father’s Kingdom.
Jesus was convinced that in his words and deeds and indeed in his very person, the Kingdom of love and justice, of freedom and fellowship, of peace and unity was firmly in place. That is why he cried out to the wretched refuse of Jewish society: “Come to me all you who labour and have heavy burdens to bear and I will give you rest.” And it is the same conviction of the heart of Jesus that led Him to say: “How lucky are you poor, yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. How lucky are you who mourn and weep because you will be comforted. How lucky are you who hunger and thirst for justice, you will be filled” It was as if Jesus could see clearly and very vividly a wholly new world being born before His very eyes, a world where there would be no oppression, no exploitation, no injustice, no deprivation and no domination of the weak by the strong. A world where every human being would be brother or sister to another with God being acknowledged as our common Father and hence a world where universal peace, harmony, brotherhood, fellowship, unity, freedom, tolerance, justice would reign. It is because of this conviction that Jesus sends a message to John the Baptist the the things predicted by Prophet Isaiah are already being fulfilled in His person: “The blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the lame walk, the lepers are healed and the dead are raised to life and thus the Good News is proclaimed to the poor.”
This is the promise and the challenge of Christmas to us. If our Christmas should not be a Christ-less Christmas, then, because of our life and work the blind must see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the lame walk and the dead must be given new life. Then indeed this will be a real Christmas. Then and only then the joy of Christmas will be true joy. A joy born of hope. A hope springing from faith.