The Spirit of Christmas

We must start a new life and family amidst an embodied diversity of a multinational culture reputed for its familial spirit of belonging and ever present hand of friendship. This expectation is particularly important to us, having experienced an environment of glamourous uncertainty and suspicion wrought by misunderstanding and discord.


by Ruwantissa Abeyratne

O Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. ~(Micah 5:2)

( December 24, 2016, Montreal , Sri Lanka Guardian) The above is an abstract from the Old Testament – a component of the Holy Bible written 700 years before Christ was born.  In this statement lies the essential truth of Christianity – that the achievement of  true greatness does not come from material wealth, power  and arrogance but from humility of mind and love for one’s fellow being.

On 25 December each year the world celebrates the feast of Christmas, when Jesus – also called the Prince of Peace – was born.  It is said in Isiah 9.6 : and the world rejoiced and cried out, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”  In other words, the spirit of Christmas should essentially be peace on earth and goodwill to all humanity.  The spirit of Christmas is also “truth” as mentioned in the Holy Quran – that Jesus stood for the word of Allah, or truth: Islamicity.org records that “though Jesus is mentioned by name in twenty-five places in the Holy Quran he is also addressed with respect as: “Ibne Maryam” – son of Mary; as Masi (Heb) Messiah – translated as Christ; “Abd-ullah” servant of Allah; “Rasul -Ullah” – Messenger of Allah. He is spoken of as “the word of God”, as “the spirit of God”, as a “Sign of God”, and numerous other epithets of honor spread over fifteen different chapters. The Holy Quran honors this great Messenger of God, and over the past fourteen hundred years Muslims continue to hold Jesus as a symbol of truth”.

One interpretation of the words of the Old Testament and the Holy Quran is that Jesus – The Ruler of Israel – ruled through peace and truth.  This is so pertinent in the current context of the world – of fake news; disingenuity and self-service on the one hand and the brutal destruction of humans and cities on the other. The symbolism of Christmas, particularly in its original setting, brings to bear the real significance of the event as a harbinger of peace and happiness and the heralding of understanding and compassion particularly of those in power toward their fellow beings.

Christmas is a time for introspection; of self-examination for self-worth. It is a time that all of the world has demonstrably shown their capacity to shed differences and work toward the common human goal of peace. We may live in a glamourous world of achievement and material ostentation. We may individually want to be identified with our own accomplishments. These are transitory and the message of Christmas reminds us of that fact.

We are in the start of a millennium which we constantly hope would be one of peace and heightened international cooperation. One which would make our experiences of the previous millennium – of futile wars fought, the needless loss of innocent life, and the nagging feeling of self-deprecation of not giving enough to our less fortunate fellow beings, go away forever. We long for a new era that would make us all serve the world without the prejudice of hatred and bigotry.

This is an era where we must be aware that civic consciousness primarily means people in power and in charge should instill in others who depend on them greater knowledge and awareness of international cooperation and sharing, in order that they could offer their specialized skills to the world, while fully understanding the contribution they are making to their fellow beings.

We must nurture our boundless spirit of giving, particularly to those in distress. When it comes to giving, we must not distinguish between our own people who are thrown out of a building which is destroyed by an explosion, and those in a poor neighborhood  who are rendered homeless by a mudslide. This quality is a great consolation and blessing to humanity which carries the message that we do not, and indeed should not shut our doors to those who genuinely need our help.

We must start a new life and family amidst an embodied diversity of a multinational culture reputed for its familial spirit of belonging and ever present hand of friendship. This expectation is particularly important to us, having experienced an environment of glamourous uncertainty and suspicion wrought by misunderstanding and discord.

Above all, at this time of great awakening, we must realize that the World moves in silent relapses of infirmity, seeking wisdom from its chosen few to mend its fences. There is never a quiet storm or timid typhoon in human conflict. Every step our leaders take, every move they make, as those chosen to make things right, must make giving with empathy more rewarding than life itself – like the beauty of a flock of doves flying home together.

There is no doubt that, with the birth and life of Christ, the ancient world became one. Since then, we are one world on some occasions, but only periodically, always in the winter of some personal tragedy, amidst our own private grief with no one to expect to come to our aid and salvation.

Not all the joys we share at the Nativity or coming of Christ nor tears that we shed when confronted with his death during the period of Lent would be much use to us unless we pluck from his own life the nettle of things done – something which can endure, something which we can value, like the message he preached and the abiding and unbridled love he showed.

History would stand between his exemplary life and oblivion, giving us his sacred message, that we will be judged not by our achievements, but by our compassion.

We will be measured not by our materialistic accomplishments but by our capacity to give. We will be judged by the legacy we leave behind and the compromises we make with each other for the greater good of our own people.

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