Tuesday 24 December 2019

Wednesday, December 25, 2019 - Christmas - The Birth of Hope

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base (demographic data) and USA Trade Online (trade data - 2018) we are living in a world of approximately seven and a half billion people.

This is a world in which there continues to be significant and growing inequalities in the distribution of resources between nations. It is a world in which the gap between the rich and the poor is growing with each passing day. However, it is also a world in which there have been many examples of generosity on the part of individuals who have given large amounts of their wealth to charitable causes.

 Because of violence and economic deprivation, migration has grown steadily and especially in this century. At the end of 2017 one in seven people were migrants and this number is steadily increasing. There have been instances of some countries turning their backs on and closing their doors to those who need help. The excuse they give is that their responsibility is first (and in the case of some countries ONLY) to their own citizens. However there have also been instances of countries which have opened their doors to welcome migrants and treated them as their own.

Our world today is a world where on the one hand we have come so close to each other that at the click of a button we can connect with persons in any part of the world, but on the other hand we are becoming more and more distanced and estranged from each other because we tend to highlight differences of colour, caste, creed and religion, rather than see what unites.

Our world is a world which is all but physically destroyed because of the greed of a few who have abused it for their own selfish ends. However, it is also a world in which people are becoming aware of the need to care for the environment and to treat the earth with the respect it deserves.

It is in such a world that Jesus is born every Christmas day. This is because the birth of Jesus is not merely a historical event which occurred over two thousand years ago, but an event which continues to take place every year to offer new hope.

This hope of Jesus coming into our world is offered in two ways. The first is by the manner in which God in Jesus entered our world. God could have chosen yet again to send a blessing or even a prophet or king to offer new hope. However, these had been sent in the past and had yielded little or no fruit. This is why God had to choose a novel, world-shattering and revolutionary way of insertion into the world. This way was the Incarnation. When John tells us that “The Word” became “flesh” (Jn 1:14) he emphasizes that in and through the Incarnation, Jesus did not merely take on a body, but became “flesh” in all its limitation, transience and fragility. It is therefore in and through the “flesh” that Jesus shows first that the human is good and has limitless potential for good and second that it is even in this broken and fragmented world that God comes to us. If God enters our damaged and injured world there cannot but be hope. This hope is that our present world even in its brokenness is good. This hope is that with God’s grace we can change our world and make it a better place.

The second way in which this hope is presented is by the choice of the name of Jesus. In the case of Jesus it was not the foster father, Joseph or his mother Mary who were given the privilege to choose the name. The name Jesus was chosen by God through the angel. When the angel Gabriel appears to Mary in the Gospel of Luke, it is he who directs her to name the child Jesus (Lk 1:31). At the time of the naming of the child Luke reminds us that the child was given the name Jesus which was the name the angel had given him before he was conceived in the womb (Lk 2:21).This is reiterated by Matthew in his infancy narrative when he states that in a dream Joseph was told not only to take the pregnant Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20) but also that he must name the child Jesus (Mt1:21).Matthew then goes on to tell us why the child will be named Jesus and explains that the name means “Saviour from sin” (Mt 1:21).

This salvation from sin was shown by Jesus in his reaching out to the poorest of the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden, and those considered the scum of society (Mk 2:15-17). Jesus lived out the meaning of his name through the miracles he worked and parables he told. Through them, he announced emphatically that the God he revealed was a God who loved unconditionally and wanted all to be saved. However, since God was a just God, his justice would be shown in God making an option for the poor.

Today, over two thousand years after that first Christmas, Jesus is born again in our midst. Through his birth among us and as human in every single way, he reminds us of two solid facts. The first is that our broken and fragmented world is good. It has been graced by the presence of God. It is a world given to us in trust and it is our responsibility to look after it responsibly. The second is that God as revealed in Jesus is Saviour. His coming into the world assures us that we are loved unconditionally. It is this love given freely and immeasurably that challenges us to love. If we rise to this challenge then we can heal our broken world and work towards justice for all and peace in our world.

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