Christmas is a festival celebrated by all cultures and all people of all religions around the world. The word ‘Christmas’ is derived from Latin which is ‘Christ’ which means Jesus and ‘Mas’ which means the birth. So, the meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ which occurred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus (74 B.C to 14 A.D) in Bethlehem in Judea. Christians around the world celebrate Christmas in many different ways. Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, Stockings, Christmas wreaths and mistletoes are some materials which symbolize the festival at present. With colonization in the 17th and 18th centuries, the European type of celebration did spread to the countries which were colonized including Sri Lanka. This European type of celebration has its origins pertaining to the Roman calendar which has the 31st of December as the last day of the year (in the winter season when the snow scenario comes to the fold) and was created by Pope Gregory XIII of Rome in 1582 following the Roman Pagan religious calendar.
We all know that Christmas symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ who was born in a lowly manger and not in a luxurious mansion. Therefore, Christmas should be a time for sharing with the poor and the needy. Also. Christmas is believed to be a festival of hope by Christians where Jesus Christ came into the world taking the human form as a little baby to deliver us from our sins with a mission to die on the cross for our sins and to grant us forgiveness. The Holy Bible notes this in the following manner.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
-Gospel according to St. Matthew 1:21-
In this way, Christmas is not only a commercialized event around the world, but it is not a time only for parties and eating and drinking, there is something more special about it. When Jesus was born the angels took the great news firstly to the Shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night. The Shepherds were poor and unnoticed in the time when Jesus was born. However, they were the first people to receive the good news. This gives us the message that Christmas should be a time for the poor, the oppressed, the unnoticed and the needy.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a Baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
– Gospel according to St. Luke 2:8-14-
Rev. Marcelline Jayakody of Sri Lanka who is also known as the ‘Priest of the Temple’
(mkaif,a msh;=ud) has composed this amazing poem which has a tantamount meaning about Christmas.
මගෙ නත්තල දුගියා බත් කන දාය
මගෙ නත්තල වැරැහැලි නැති වන දාය
මගෙ නත්තල ඔබේ දුක සැනැසෙන දාය
මගෙ නත්තල පව පල්ලිය යන දාය
The English meaning of this poem is as follows,
My Christmas is the day when the poor eats
My Christmas is when there will be no rags to wear
My Christmas is on the day where you walk out of your sorrow and rejoice
My Christmas is on the day where the sinner goes to Church
This poem could be even understood as a fact that a development of a country and the restriction of income inequality between the poor and the rich will be Christmas indeed. So, true Christmas could be celebrated in a country when there is no poor in the country and everyone has enough to eat and has an equal share of a country’s resources. This is the fundamental principle of creating a just, fair, and equitable society. This is the Political side of Christmas.
Christmas is again a time to forget the regrets and hatred and spread the love and fellowship which will last throughout the coming year. The famous Christmas song by Alan Jackson called ‘Let it Be Christmas’ gives us an explicit message on Christmas.
Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year.