Coming from the humblest of economic backgrounds, Joseph and Mary, on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, in all probability would not have had any food with them. No wonder, then, Jesus, the ‘bread of life’ had to be born in Bethlehem, ‘the house of bread’. Thus, the Son of Man identified himself completely with the poor and the hungry.
In the severe winter of Palestine, the baby Jesus had no decent cloths to cover himself with, a sheer denial of the fundamental human right to clothing. Even on the cross, the Son of Man was half-naked, representing those who are deprived of their right to clothing.
The God incarnate had no place to be born. He was denied the basic right to shelter. Jesus, thus, became the prototype of the homeless. St. John sums up his account of the divine incarnation in just one measured verse:
The Word became flesh and pitched His tent among the people (John 1:14)
Jesus Christ pitched His tent among the tent-dwellers, the homeless people. Jesus was also a refugee, a migrant who had to flee from his homeland for His life. King Herod, threatened by the news that a new King of an altogether different persuasion was born in Bethlehem, plotted to do away with the new born baby. Jesus’ life was at stake even bfore he was born, as his parents could not find a safe place for the birth to take place. Even after the birth, the threat to his life did not recede, as King Herod was bent on killing the baby. As King Herod cold not lay his hands directly on the new born King, he ordered the massacre of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood. There was no choice for the family except to flee home and to seek refuge elsewhere in Egypt. To ‘save’ the Saviour, they had to run away from the oppressor. Thus, Jesus Christ became a refugee, an alien in His own land, also becoming one with the millions of poor, outcaste and refugees all over the world.
If this was the true Christmas story, how far are we from the original reality of Christmas? Can we retrieve the original meaning of the Christmas event by turning to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the outcaste and the refugees in our own contexts?
I wish you a meaningful Christmas, a Christmas with the poor, and an alcohol-free Christmas and New Year.
Coorilos Geevarghese Metropolitan