CHRISTMAS OF THE WISE

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Christmas marks the end  of a  long period of waiting. And meeting  Christ is the  absolute bliss that one  can get at the  end  of this arduous journey. In fact Christmas  is not the day   when   Jesus was born, but the day when  we meet  Jesus.

For us, Christmas has become a highly commercialized festival. There, the  main character, Jesus in the manger, is pushed to the margins to  give place for decorated cribs , shining stars, and a variety of dishes. Since it has  become  part of our  tradition to celebrate Christmas this way, we  repeat it every year. Unfortunately, the true spirit of Christmas is  ignored in the process. Let us  remember  the words of  the Lord that we are making void the word of God through our tradition that we have handed on’ (Mk 7:13).

Celebrating Christmas should not be  a spontaneous act. Rather it should be the culmination of  long days of preparation. When the wise men commenced their  journey from the East to meet the King of Jews, they had the light of a  little star to  guide them. Its rays of hope led them straight to the  city of the Lord. For the  first time, they  were confused  after reaching Jerusalem. They needed help to  cover the  last lap of their journey.

Logic  took them to  the palace of Herod, because kings are born in palaces, and Jesus indeed was king. ‘Where is the child  who has been born king of the Jews?’ (Mt 2:2). This question was enough to frighten Herod, because  anybody who claimed to be  king was a threat to him. Or so he thought. The wisdom to  know that Jesus was  the king of  human hearts was alien to his mind.

It was the chief priests and scribes of the people who directed the wise men to Bethlehem. For them it was an accepted  fact that the  Savior should come from Bethlehem. Prophecies were crystal clear to exclude any place other than Bethlehem to be the birthplace of Jesus. Yet they did not think it necessary to go up to Bethlehem, which is hardly a few miles from  Jerusalem, to look for the  child. The  same spirit  that  possessed Herod was  present in them also. This was why they  opted to ignore the  good news.

For those who want to get proper directions  to the place  where  Christ resides,  their  eyes should be free from the blindness  of ignorance and lack of faith. Otherwise our  eyes will be blinded to obscure the  Lord  from  vision, even while he stands before us. We should be aware of the ultimate tragedy  that may befall us, that of becoming  blind in the  brightness of the  Lord. Jesus himself has warned us that it might so happen that those who do see would go blind.  ‘I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see  may become blind’ (Jn 9:39). We need to buy ‘the salve to anoint our eyes so that we may see’ (Rev 3:18). This salve is supplied by Jesus and Jesus alone.

It is with the opening of our eyes that we  understand the mystery of  the holy birth. To see  Jesus in person was  something that  many men, prophets and  kings alike, longed for. ‘Many prophets and kings desired to see what  you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it’ (Lk 10:24). Jesus reminds us that   every meeting with Christ is a blessing and listening to his words is also equally desirable.

Do we realize the value of this  precious gift, the opportunity to see  our Savior? There is a simple way to know it. It is the way chosen by the wise men. They never returned to Herod, but  left by  another  road.  It is needless for those who once met Jesus to  return to the palace. The one who is the  way, the truth, and the light will guide them in their onward journey. Nor do they need the  light of a star anymore, because they are called to  walk in the eternal light of  the Lamb (Rev 21:24).

We should introspect whether, after celebrating Christmas year after year,  we are still   following  the   flickering  light of a distant star. The  true light, which enlightens everyone, has come to the world (Jn 1:9) and those who, even after seeing this  light,  love darkness rather than light (Jn 3:19) are scripting their own judgment.  As for  those who understand the true meaning of Christmas, their  eyes should be  opened to the  light of Christ; the light that  darkness  could never overcome (Jn 1:5).

Now, our attitude  towards Christmas  determines the  depth of our spirituality too. We find three types of persons, or rather three different responses to the good news  from the  manger.  First was  Herod who was  frightened, and all Jerusalem with him (Mt 2:3). A ‘good news of great joy for all the people’ (Lk 2:10) has become a  cause of fear for  Herod!

Then comes the  chief priests and  scribes. They were indifferent to the core of the  birth of the promised Savior. After all, Bethlehem was  not too far for them to go and enquire!

It was the wise men  who finally  met Jesus. At the end of their  journey they enjoyed the  divine presence of Jesus, adored him and  opened their treasure chests, offered him gifts of  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They  returned with joy through another  road that the  Lord showed them.

Now it is our turn to decide. How do we plan to celebrate Christmas? May the  Infant Jesus bless us to follow the  path traveled by  the wise men.

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