Christmas Message

Fr Cleophas Fernandes - (Snehalaya)

Christmas 2020 – with a Difference!

Christmas this year will be different. For most of us it will be with less externals, but nothing can take away the deeper experience of joy and peace which comes from knowing that God is with us, in all things that matter to our lives the most.

Christmas for the poor, hungry and those who need God

On December 24, 1978, Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador preached homily that hits at the core of our beings. St Archbishop Romero said:

“No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need of God – for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit, there can be no abundance of God.

We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of the Christmas cribs. We must seek him in the undernourished children who have gone to bed without eating….”

Is it not true that the Christ whose birth we celebrate every year is the same? Jesus Christ is perennially the same but his birth can mean a different experience every year as our world changes. The in-carnation (God becoming ‘flesh’) is precisely the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the very concrete historical context of the times. He does not become a human being in abstract or in a vacuum but a concrete man, known as the itinerant prophet on the road of Galilee, the son of a craftsman.

Christ comes to a world in upheaval

While Christ is the same, today we celebrate his birth in a very different historical context. Our entire world is facing an upheaval because of Covid 19. A tiny, invisible to the naked eye virus has infiltrated into every aspect of human life. People’s lives have been shaken up by sickness, poverty, loneliness, despair and social distancing. A lot that we took for granted has changed. We walk out of our homes in fear. It all boils down to experiencing our poverty in the Covid context. Oscar Romero and our own Scriptures tell us that Jesus came to set us free from sin and all forms of misery. More than ever, we find ourselves in need of God, not just a God who pays us a courtesy visit, but our God becomes ‘Emanuel’, God-with-us. For us, this year there will be a different Christmas, maybe a more authentic Christmas. Let us open our hearts and homes to welcome Christ.

St Archbishop Romero said that Christ’s birth will happen in the poor, the hungry, those who feel the need of a Saviour, they will be in a position to welcome the birth of the Lord, just like the simple shepherds. Yes, we ask ourselves in what ways are we ‘poor’, ‘hungry’ people who realize that we are not self-sufficient but eager to receive the Lord?

Different gifts on the Christmas tree

We need not be dreaming of a ‘White Christmas’. We probably need to dream of a Christmas when the world will get a healing touch from our Lord and Saviour. Will the new-born Child bring us a Christmas gift of a vaccine, not just for the elite and rich but for all who need it the most? This year on our Christmas trees we could hang up face masks and syringes with needles and vials of medicines; we could hang up and wish for pay packets for all the needy. In our little cribs we could place not just charming shepherds of the distant past and angels but doctors and nurses and health care workers, the shepherds of our times.

At this Christmas we want to pray with confidence the words spoken by the Prophet Isaiah and noted in Mathew:

“the people living in darkness

have seen a great light,

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.” Mt 4:16

May this Christmas see the dawn of a new light in our hearts and homes in the midst of our darkness. Yes, we still can say: Happy Christmas!

Fr Cleophas Fernandes

(Snehalaya)