A celebration robbed of simplicity
By Dr. George Jacob
Christmas celebrates something as grandiose as the birth of God’s son and the world’s Redeemer as Christians believe.
The very first Christmas, which witnessed the Holy Birth 2000 years ago, was known for its simplicity, humility and involvement of common folk, which is the unique event’s hallmark. Mary, into full term of her pregnancy with the king of Kings and the lord of Lords was transported on a donkey to Bethlehem, accompanied by her fiancé Joseph. They were on their way to comply with Emperor Augustus’ decree issued throughout the Roman world for a registration to be made.
The pregnant Mary did not travel in a BMW, Benz or an Audi luxury vehicle, accompanied by beacon-flashing and siren-wailing convoy, carrying a posse of policemen and black cats carrying AK-47s, ordering ordinary tax-paying citizens menacingly to make way, worse than stray dogs are treated, putting them to a great deal of inconvenience and dislocation in the process.
Only recently, during the visit of the Vice-president to Cochin, a neurosurgical colleague of mine could not reach the hospital in time to operate on a patient with head injury sustained in an accident. The surgeon was held up in a traffic block that resulted from traffic ‘restriction’ imposed for the ‘safe passage’ of the dignitary visiting the city.
Nothing of that sort happened in that cold wintry night. Joseph and Mary travelled alone unnoticed, under the cover of darkness, plowing through the snow-covered roads of Nazareth. No policeman specially posted stood vigil by the wayside. Time to give birth to the Child drew neigh. The couple searched for a reasonably comfortable and secure place for the woman in labor to deliver.
They knocked on every door at the dead of night. None opened for them. They were shooed away. They did not seek admission into a presidential suite of a corporate multispecialty hospital. Only one place was available for them – a lowly manger beside an inn. The innkeeper offered them the ‘facilities’ of the manger. They had for company the ox, lamb and the ass.
In the humble ‘comforts’ of the manger, God’s Son was born. He was not placed in a warm incubator, but on a bed of hay. There was no blanket to cover Him from the harsh winter’s cold. Only a few swaddling bands were available. The news of the Holy birth was not flashed across the world on Television, newspaper, Whatsapp or Face Book.
Humble and lowly shepherds watching their flock in the dead of night were the first to be informed of the Birth by a choir of angels praising God. And they were the first to harry on to visit the newborn. They had nothing to gift the newborn. They bought Him no baby kit manufactured by Johnson and Johnson, or no toy by Leo!
No head of state, politicians or religious heads made a beeline before the stinking manger to behold and honor the ‘King of kings’, throwing their weight around to cause public nuisance. No flashbulbs went off inside the manger. Nor did any OB van wait outside the manger with their lights and microphones. Only a few stars lit up that cold and misty winter night. No interviews were sought from Mary or Joseph. They were too unimportant for that.
Yes, celebrity did make its presence felt when three wise men from the East arrived to honor the ‘king’. They had with them some myrrh, and frankincense to gift the Child. There was probably a ring of gold too. No diamond or precious stone embellished the ring like the one kings and bishops usually wear these days. 2000 years later, this humble birth is celebrated with gallons of liquor, plenty of rich food, cakes, plastic Christmas trees, LED lights, decorations and cribs, all made in China and the entire city decked up with lights, stars and confetti. These will only have the birthday Boy scoff at and abhor. These will never serve to glorify Him!
The hospitals around the world and the country will make a windfall by treating victims of ghastly road traffic accidents, caused by drunken driving. Five-star hotels also will make a huge profit, GST or not, by serving prohibitively expensive buffet dinner rife with meat of every creature that fly, walk, swim, and crawl, not to forget choicest desserts, salads, soup and, of course the wine! In the midst of this jamboree, the birthday boy will stand forgotten, neglected and uncared for, much unlike the nigh
He was born in simple circumstances, when He was cared for by his parents who lived in abject poverty, visited by lowly, humble and unheralded shepherds. Christmas which celebrates simplicity, humility and commonplace exhorts us to lead simple lives, far removed from flashbulbs, advertisement and self-aggrandizement with worldly honor, positions, designations, star-studded lapels, esteem, power and worldly possessions that outweighs our needs. It goads us on to give room for the newborn King in the warmth and comforts of our hearts that have been left open for His birth.