Universal message of love | Daily News

Universal message of love

Christmas comes but once a year bringing with it good cheer, joy and togetherness. Like many things Christmas too has undergone many changes, but with the Christmas spirit still intact despite the rapid transformation around us. However for some, Christmas is just an occasion for merriment, coming as it does at the end of the year where the tendency is to relax and give free rein to your inner joy. No doubt spending sprees will be the order during this Christmas as well despite the limited family budgets.

However with the advent of Pope Francis, known as the pope of the poor, who has shed all external trappings of the church and laid emphasis on humility and humbleness, there is bound to be a change in the attitude and outlook of most Cathlolics towards Christmas, which though known as the season of giving and sharing has only served to marginalise and segregate the poor more and more in the present day. Therefore it is time that all wasteful expenditure be curtailed as His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has enjoined and the resources channeled towards worthy causes to do with the sustenance of the poor and the needy.

Special thought also should be given this Christmas to the thousands of children in the conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, who are without food and homes and forced to sleep in open spaces in the cold to escape from bombardments. This Christmas should also bring to mind the plight of the families who have been separated and torn asunder due to war, the refuges fleeing their conflict ridden countries on perilous journeys.

For all that it is difficult to resist the allure and charm of Christmas, for most who are creatures of habit. They will go the extra mile to make the most of the occasion.

Brisk shopping and hectic preparations

So another Christmas has dawned with the cheery feeling evident all round. The run up to Christmas as always is a hive of activity with brisk shopping and hectic preparations. The streets are choked with milling crowds grabbing up the Christmas bargains and Yuletide perennials blare forth from record bars and sundry shops sending that special feeling coursing through your veins. There is also that nip in the air this time of the year mingling with the scented cypresses lined up for sale on city pavements and shops. It is also the time for big business.

Rubicund cheeked Santa Clauses beam out from shop windows advertising the latest brands. Special Christmas hampers are laid out at supermarkets and luxury stores. It is holiday time with school vacations on and office workers taking their annual leave in bulk. Peoples’ faces mirror a general air of gaiety and joy filled with a sense of anticipation.

Present day Christmas celebrations have changed over the years in tempo and form. Christmas shopping in the past was a leisurely affair unlike today's mad scramble. Though salaries were small compared to the present day there was always plenty in reserve for Christmas. The lavish bonuses dished out by many mercantile firms helped fuel the Christmas cheer.

Shoppers also had their favourite stores unlike today when everything could be bought under one roof. Alas, most of these landmarks are no more although old timers still speak of them with a sense of nostalgia.

Christmas was also a much looked forward to event in the now almost extinct Burgher community which dominated many pockets in the Colombo city areas such as Hulftsdorp, Princess gate, Grandpass and Kotahena. For them Christmas was all about merriment and revelry with no expenses spared. For this breed Christmas was a day for Bachchanial roister that began days before the event and progressing well into the new year.

The preceding weeks were devoted to stocking up where the stores were conveyed in the then ubiquitous rickshaws. Central to the run up to Christmas was the preparation of the Christmas cake for which the assorted ingredients were preserved in jars months ahead. Carols were another feature sung with gusto to perfect harmonising by members of the family and extended family.

In the weeks preceding Christmas it is also common to see carol singers parading the streets in groups donned in fancy attire visiting every home collecting in the process a substantial purse invariably spent on binges. All this culminate in the midnight mass where the church overflows with the pious and the once a year church goers.

It goes without saying that Christmas is a universal festival celebrated across different faiths, cultures and ethnic boundaries. No matter what gloom has descended the Christmas spirit cannot be dampened. This is why even amidst the worst economic depression to hit the Western world several years ago Christmas was celebrated without let or hindrance among these societies.

But is Christmas that marks the birth of Christ, the saviour of mankind observed in the way it should? Is this great event heralding peace joy and salvation to the world being abused and distorted? Sadly amid the babel and humdrum surrounding the Christmas festivities the underlining message denoting the true meaning of the event is lost. Christmas today has been associated with unbridled commercialism and the cacophony of the market place.

Nay Christmas has today become a commodity in the hands of multinational behemoths to rake in the shekels. Greed has overtaken the true message and meaning of Christmas which is sacrificed on the altar of mammon.

Business interests

It is all too evident that Christmas today has been hijacked by business interests. It has become an occasion to bolster trade and business connection. Expensive hampers and other goodies are exchanged for favours in return - all in the backdrop of Christmas.

The contrast with the humble birth of the Christ Child in a manger surrounded by poor shepherds cannot be more glaring. Symbols such as the Christmas Tree, the crib are only tokens for unbridled jollity. Sadly even the Church today has failed to get across the true message of Christmas to its flock.

As a result, the spirit of giving, sharing and caring for the poor which is the essence of Christmas is subsumed in glitter of the festivities and merriment. The level of commercialization of Christmas can be seen by the giant structures of the Nativity scenes adorning the frontages of supermarkets and shopping malls, the epitomes of luxury, ostentation and profiteering. Santa Claus is but a clownish figure doing his thing opposite shops and store fronts.

Christmas should be rescued from the grip of mammon and made to revisit its true origins and hallowed message.

Buried in all the joy and gaiety is the true meaning of Christmas with Christians tending to overlook the message of the birth of the redeemer two millennia ago in a cold stable surrounded by cattle and sheep. Instead the accent is on the outer trappings. Christmas is called the season of giving and sharing, but mostly this giving and sharing is among the rich who have the capacity to return the favour.

This is a distortion of theme of Christmas which is today being used as a convenient tool to trade favours.

Great gift of God

Hence it is vital for all Christians to hearken to the spirit of the message delivered by the birth of the redeemer and make Christmas a meaningful and spiritually fulfilling one. True, celebrations are in order for the great gift of God in sending his Son to this world to cleanse and purge all souls of the stain of sin. But the underlying message of Christmas should not be forgotten. Those who splurge on Christmas goodies should spare a thought for the orphans, the deprived and those in the numerous Homes for the elders, the prisoners, the terminally ill and those on the verge of death.

Christ moved among the poor and the deprived and expects His followers to traverse in His footsteps.

It should be rescued from the status of a commodity and salvaged from exploitation by the unscrupulous for profit and gain. A huge responsibility lies with the church and its guardians to redeem this most hallowed festival from its current decadence.

The underlying message of Christmas should be dinned into the faithful with more emphasis and vigour so that they will be enriched and inspired by the universal message of that far away first Christmas.



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