The other day I went to a nice, cozy Christmas gathering, where the host asked the question: ''What does Christmas mean to you?''. He answered it himself by saying that it is the arrival of the ''Good News'', pithily put. But how do we view Christmas, is it only the Santa Clays effect (for children) and gatherings or 'celebrations' for adults? What are such 'celebrations '? Why this merriment and gay abandon? In the cities of our country shops are decorated, trees ornately dressed, all to give the festive aura. The true meaning of Christmas can be understood in terms of the Good News mentioned above.
The point that we miss out is remembering this, not only on particular days, or a day, but everyday! The Good News is an event which is heart rending, and apocalyptic, it must be understood, then observed and enshrined in our very belief. We need not be avowedly Christian for this; Gandhiji practised in his own ways the teachings of Christ, and categorically stated the The Sermon On The Mount moved him in a thousand ways.
When I ponder on the meaning of Christmas, I think of unfortunate children, who cannot share the goodies of their peers. Years ago William Blake wrote in an obvious reference to Christ in his '' Songs Of Innocence'':
''He is meek, he is mild
He became a little child''.
In the Gospels Christ's likening to the child, holy, pure and innocent are mentioned. Recently I visited a Shelter Home in Shillong, for once again a prelude to Christmas. The children were from broken homes, orphaned to the core, some of them as tiny as three to four years old. The people of this Home were giving them care, just as Christ wanted, to regain them of their innocence, which was perhaps violated in the worst manner possible. Such a Christmas meet is not only meaningful, but one understands the vision of the child, with God's signature.
I often wonder as to why in the ''Good News'' fleshed with the Word of The Bible, is Christ referred to as ''Son of God'' or ''Son of Man''. The Good News upholds Man as God, God Man, in the divinity of the Holy Trinity. So the Good News or Christmas can be understood, and absorbed in our lives everyday, when we see the deprived, the poor, the neglected, the street child. There is no dearth of them in our country, we must at least try to practice what we preach.
The Good News brings with it the message of Peace, Forgiveness, Love, even to the point of Loving The Enemy. We have to be practical, we have enemies, lurking around corners of darkness, and can we love them or forgive them? Yet this News was anticipated years before it was Christmas day, it was prophecied, prognosticated in the Scriptures called the Holy Bible. That is because God came to forgive, forgive and cleanse sins, and to rid us of troubles in relationships, in the very fact of existence, our 'existential' problems, as it were. This recurs again and again in the anticipation of the birth of Christ, in the Scriptures. The Psalms for example evidence this with astonishing clarity, when it speaks of God's presence, and monumental love. This is the Christmas day we talk of, a situation we know that God cares for the poor, the isolated and the untethered. Also it is a day, when we know that our worst fears can be overcome. Christmas has many layers of meaning of love, compassion and self encounter.
What is this ''self encounter''? It is confronting the darkness within us, or the darkness pervading an entire country, society, or for that matter the world. It is the moment to light the 'centre' of our moral being. So Christmas comes with the tidings of certainty, not uncertainty, hope not despair, and love not unmitigated hate. It makes us, or should make us think that everyone is equal in God's hallowed eyes, that there are less fortunate people than us, adults or children. The Man who took birth on this very propitious day, chided, mildly rebuked humanity for its inequality, hypocrisy and false beliefs. Hence his Kingdom and wisdom was a direct threat to a political kingdom. That is why He was King Of Kings.
In the happenings of the country, we see how rights and equality are castigated, violated to the point bereft of wisdom and knowledge. Everything seems to be held in nothingness and spiritual wisdom. People killed, raped, which we justify by measure of political and social wisdom. There is vacuity. We must practice the teachings of the One, born on 'Christmas Day' , not simply enjoy the day, and the days preceding it; wantonly, and in a bohemian manner.
Christmas is everyday, It is love in all its fortitude and dimensions. It is mercy, charity, humility and forgiveness. Gladys Staines did just that even when her husband and children were killed most dastardly, and in a macabre manner. Mother Teresa too practiced it gently, by performing actions of love and by wiping the tear of unfortunates.
I see in Christmas a 'meaning' of the many in one, and the one in the many...