Bishop Banda’s Christmas Eve Homily
Today we celebrate the most decisive moment in the salvation history of mankind, – “the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour”. The long waiting for the promised saviour has come to pass. The “forsaken” humankind is brought forth to the land of light. The true sun lights up the sky for the future generations to see light on the horizons till the end of time.
As the prophet Isaiah says, “You shall no more be termed forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed desolate; for you shall be called a holy people, the redeemed of the Lord (Is 62:4 – 12).
However, the saviour is born as a helpless child in a stable, near a wayside guesthouse, without midwives or attendants. This scenario puts upside down the wisdom of mankind. A king born in the slams! Indeed God’s plans are so different from our plans.
Divine interventions in human situation are rather beyond our understanding. When we seriously reflect on God’s intervention in our lives; these leave much to be desired and indeed we are mostly puzzled to visualize His presence and indeed His hand at work. However, He is always at work – working in our lives baffling our limited human wisdom and intelligence.
In the incarnation God comes in a way far from splendour, pomp, flash and admiration. He comes as a child – vulnerable and helpless “wrapped in swaddling clothes” and laid in a manger. There are no maid servants, no nobles, not even acquaintances.
God stoops to the bottom of His self-emptying to be one with us – the lowly. As St. John puts it, “He came to His own” (cf. Jn. 1:11). When it comes to love, we tend to do anything for the beloved. We even brave the night, and no huddle is insurmountable. God abandoned His heavenly bliss and came down to our level to dwell amongst us because of love. So that no one can shy away from the fruits of His incarnation.
He is born as a stranger in someone else’s stable on the wayside; hence no one needs to be afraid of approaching Him. He is accessible to all. God becomes accessible and tangible especially to those on the periphery of our society, cartels and associations, the poor, rejected, condemned etc.
It goes without saying that the poor, the abandoned, the rejected, and public sinners can claim access to Him. He too understands the hurting of their daily existence. This comes out forcefully on the first recipients of His birth. His birth is first announced not to the nobles, the righteous and the virtuous but shepherds shivering in the winter night in the open fields of Bethlehem. He is born for the people that need Him the most – the poor at heart, those that await Him, those that long for Him, the vulnerable.
Though shepherding was a noble profession earlier and even King David was a shepherd. However, by the birth of Jesus, it had become a profession to be filled in from the lower ranks of society. It was no longer considered as a decent profession. Society had already labelled shepherds as thieves and liars. Even their testimony was no longer admissible in the courts of law.
Since the regular work of shepherding kept them from observing Sabbath strictly and as such duties attached to their profession rendered them ritually unclean. They were classified along with tax collectors and prostitutes, people who were sinners by virtue of their very profession.
The Christmas story invites us to a paradigm shift in the understanding of God’s incarnation. As God becomes accessible to our touch and sight we are invited to become available and accessible to each other and to bring one another not only the expression of compliments of the season (or seasonal greetings) but merry Christmas (the person of Jesus Christ) without whom there would be no Christmas.
It is Jesus who invites us to emulate Him to share with others our own dignity especially with those that hunger, not only for bread but also for love. Those who are naked not only for lack of clothing but also for lack of protection and abuse. Those who are homeless, not only for shelter but also that homelessness that comes from having no one to call your own (orphaned, aged, sick, widowed, widower and single parents).
Those who are thirsty not only for water, but also for opportunities, facilities, care, love etc. Those who are imprisoned, not only in physical prisons but also in mind and heart because of selfishness. They only think about the “I” hence I-phone, I–pad, I-pod, I – paid for it, etc. May this Christmas make us available and accessible to all, regardless.