What would Jesus want for Christmas?

2010-12-24 00:00

AS 2010 draws to a close, our growing inequality, deepening political intolerance, widespread contempt for the poor, awful propensity for violence against our women and children, our greedy exploitation of people's poverty and joblessness, and our rape of the resources of the world we share, all remain an affront to God.

All these remain markers of the presence of death against which we commit ourselves to fight.

The cost of faithfulness is high in worldly terms, but the reward is unfathomably rich — it is life.

It is the gift of Christmas, during which we remember the birth of Jesus in the world.

The Bible goes to great lengths to make plain that God's chosen way of being present in the world was not only fundamentally human, but specifically with the poor and oppressed and against the orders and ideologies of worldly power and riches.

How have we allowed the commemoration of that event at Christmas to become a grotesque celebration of consumerism that distracts us from the truth of the good news to the poor?

Jesus was born in that animal stable in Bethlehem because his parents were excluded from access to decent shelter.

The Scripture tells us that they were turned away and told there was no room for them in the inn.

Jesus became a thorn in the side of every elite power group of his time because he befriended the outcasts, favoured the poor, and challenged the rich and powerful.

Jesus was executed under the sneering label of "King of the Jews" because he was thought to be a dangerous political dissident whose "kingdom" threatened to put the first last and the last first.

Jesus continues to be among those who remain faithful to the God of that first Christmas.

In a call to people of faith to be present at an important court case recently, the shack-dwellers movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, said: "We always remember that God chose a poor man, a humble carpenter, a man with the rough hands of a worker, to bring the message of salvation into the world.

"The fact that God chose a poor man to bring his good news to humanity always reminds us that our equal humanity is a fact that cannot be denied."

So let's give and share gifts among each other this Christmas. Let's celebrate and nurture bonds of family and friendship during this holiday. Let's sing those wonderful Christmas hymns and never forget the point of that original gift, the act of God's total grace for abundant life for all his creation.

• Bishop Rubin Phillip is the Anglican bishop of Natal. This is his Christmas message.

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