l by Rev. Fr. Leopold Ratnasekera OMI
(December 24, Kandy, Sri Lanka Guardian) Christmas is about celebrating the birth of a child of poor and humble beginnings but at the same time one who was noble and extraordinary because eventually as a religious founder, he would bring a radical message to the civilization and cultures of mankind which would launch a revolutionary change in the life of humanity. The birth of Jesus of Nazareth has been hailed as a decisive event for the last twenty centuries and at every Christmas the celebration appears fresh and its message ever appealing and apt to the times. It connects God to whom glory is sung in the heavens and mankind to whom peace on earth is announced. There is a mixture of heavenly liturgy and earthly celebration intersecting to give to all who celebrate it a sigh of relief in a world torn as it is today by conflicts and strife, enmity and confrontation. Christmas challenges all to be men of good will and peace-makers and thus be counted as God’s children and feel already blessed in this world.
Christmas is a religious festival with a profound spiritual message. It is a core Christian celebration and happens to be a precious gift of Christianity to the world at large. For twenty centuries the echo of Bethlehem rings out to the four corners of the globe a call of urgency to defend and promote life and to prevent those conditions that is a threat and danger to life—-human life. The little child of Bethlehem is a prophetic cry in defence of life of the innocents because the child is the future man. He holds the key to the future. It has to be received into this world with love and compassion. Children are a symbol of life in its very beginnings and that period demands meticulous attention and loving care. It is amazing how the world of the adults have become such a dangerous enemy to the world of children. When we think of the crimes, injustices and abuses perpetrated on them in society, one begins to wonder whether there is any worth in a thing called human life. It has been devalued and depreciated to such an alarming degree that one is left baffled at its sad consequences. In the Christian understanding, a royal babe cuddled in a comfortable cot in some rich home and one that is born to the poorest of women in the hovels of Brazil or the Vanni are of equal dignity and worth. They enjoy the same basic human rights and call for respect of their human dignity.
Each individual’s life and person is to be held and respected as sacred and inviolable. All forms of violence to life have to be abhorred in the name of the Child of Bethlehem who is the symbol of the beauty of life. A child is nature’s first wonder, the bond of the parents, the joy and the future of the family. He is a country’s future citizen. Christianity considers him a potential saint. For these sublime reasons, Christmas is a wake-up call to rise to a new awareness of the dignity of human life and consider all children as nature’s gifts to humanity to be loved and nurtured in order to ensure that they are full beneficiaries of what life can offer.
Among the shadows of our world is the neglected and battered world of helpless and vulnerable children. Their cry, loneliness, pain and insecurity should move anyone with a modicum of humanity to empathize with them and do whatever in one’s utmost power to bring some solace to their grievances. Celebrating the festival of a child-birth should lead us to this important awareness and sense of obligation and duty with respect to children. When children are well looked after and care for, the value of life is promoted and enhanced. A child, we might say, is the sanctuary of the sacredness of life and the tabernacle of its dignity. Since, most of the world rallies round at Christmas, it can be a privileged time for awareness of our connectedness to children. Crimes against children range from abortion to diverse forms of abuse, including physical violence and sexual exploitation. The rate of abortions in our country too is reaching alarming proportions today. It is said that over a thousand illegal abortions, mainly as a result of rape and illegal sexual unions, is being carried out in this island called the “dhammadeepa”. It shows how the culture of death has overtaken us all and respect for life and its dignity thereby been thrown to the winds. Christmas hurls an anti-abortion cry in favor of the most vulnerable innocents who are victims of this terrible crime which in plain terms is murder. It reminds us of Herod who hacked off little children during the time of the birth of the child Jesus. Herod of the latter years was later to be scoffed at as a ‘fox’ by Jesus the itinerant preacher in public. It is the massacre of the innocents that prefigured in many ways the modern phenomenon of the murder of innocents, which we call abortion.
Responsible parenthood and dignified planning of the family together with good education in sexual matters for growing youth and those preparing for marriage will in many ways arrest the curse of illegitimate births of these unwanted children. In addition to this, every individual must be made aware of his or her human dignity as persons and taught how to take precautionary measures against imprudent and foolish exposure to potentially dangerous relationships, intimacies and emotional involvements. These issues are for psychologists and counsellors who can impart the necessary guidance and direction that will motive people well in this area of human behavior, morality and ethics. Character-formation and personality-building are the most difficult of arts in education. Here we are challenged to deal with minds, hearts and emotions. These require various codes of mental, physical and spiritual disciplines and codes of conduct that will enable persons to hold themselves mature and responsible.
Promoting life and defending its basic dignity and rights is very much incumbent on both State and religious institutions. Religions have a special and specific role to play in this matter. Not only the negative precepts of the “don’ts”, but the more positive attitudes to life have to be constantly highlighted. Life can be spoiled, or its golden opportunities lost in many ways. How many benefits are there that we can gain from life if it is well invested in profitable ways and projects! The span of human life is so short that not much time can be wasted in our planning to make it fruitful. The merciless culture of death that strikes at the aborted and abused children has to be dealt with a counter-culture of love and responsibility to life and its dignity. Each individual’s life and person is to be held and respected as sacred and inviolable. All forms of violence to life have to be abhorred in the name of the Child of Bethlehem who is the symbol of the beauty of life. A child is nature’s first wonder, the bond of the parents, the joy and the future of the family. He is a country’s future citizen. Christianity considers him a potential saint. For these sublime reasons, Christmas is a wake-up call to rise to a new awareness of the dignity of human life and consider all children as nature’s gifts to humanity to be loved and nurtured in order to ensure that they are full beneficiaries of what life can offer.