A Christmas of peace at long last
Peace and Goodwill in our land, the central theme this Christmas
By Francis Vethanayagam
It's December the last month of a calendar year, which heralds the season or period of Advent. People the world over are anxiously preparing to commemorate the Birth of Jesus Christ. This year the occasion will be on a totally different note. As done down the ages, the celebrations could be two fold. One the material aspect or outlook and the other, the spiritual aspect or outlook. After nearly twenty long years enmeshed in strife, bloodshed and untold destruction, the birth of the Prince of Peace is to be celebrated this year in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

The child of Bethlehem alone can give us the peace which all in our country are seeking

Despite the unrest, that prevailed then and continues to prevail in and around the world now, the coming of the promised Messiah in the form of a man, will remain a unique event ever to be recorded and witnessed in history. In an ever changing world, generations down the ages have taken away the real meaning, or significance of this great event. Engulfed in a commercial world that has been turning towards materialistic ideas in what is being claimed as inevitable in order to keep ahead with the changing times of a competitive society.

Christ came into this world sent by the Eternal Father, for the purpose of saving mankind from this lost condition. To strengthen his relationship with God, his neighbour, and the world around. This was accomplished by the price he paid on the cross for the redemption of mankind by taking on himself, the penalty and punishment for human sin.

The Birth of the Messiah when it took place went unnoticed and above all ignored, although it was a birth of a God King taking human shape in a different sense of the term. The Jews, the Religious Leaders, Teachers, Lawmakers and Rulers at that time were either ignorant, misunderstood or deliberately misintepreted God's message and scripture. They least expected the promised Messiah to be born in a stable, among beasts and humble shepherds. They awaited a Royal birth associated with that of Prince, King, or Conqueror with pomp, pageantry. This they anticipated in keeping with the interpretation of the teachings that existed at that time.

Poor Shepherds
The first Christmas had mixed reactions. To some it brought great joy, solace, comforted tranquillity. To others tremendous fear, anxiety and impending danger of radical social changes and yet to others, expectation of hope and belief of a beginning of a new life of salvation for mankind. The poor shepherds watched over their flocks on distant hill tops on that dark and wintry night. But to those in the outside world, it was far from peaceful. Instead it was a night of horror. Man was rising against man, and nations against nations, exploitation, hatred, injustice, corruption, oppression and the like was rampant at its highest level and was the order of the day everywhere.

Strangely even after twenty centuries little or no changes seem to have taken place. Therefore the message of Christ which was relevant to all places and all times has not had its desired impact. It is against this identical background that people in the modern world are getting ready to celebrate the noble event of a man who was born poor, lived poor and sacrificed his life for the salvation of mankind.

Today in every corner of the world people sing "Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on Earth" while wishes of "Peace on earth to men of goodwill" are also sung, but we neither see the glory of God nor Peace on earth ever since Christ left this earth. People have failed to realize that when preparations are being made to celebrate this sacred event, it's a celebration not merely of the birth of Christ who lived and died, but one whose still alive and will continue to do be. Keeping in mind that he is the risen Lord.

Therefore this Christmas like every other in the past is only a preparation of a certain event for his coming in glory for which the first Christmas was only a prelude. His second coming will not be in the form of a helpless babe lying in a manger but to judge the living and the dead.

God given opportunity
At long last a war torn nation has been able to see the light of peace at the end of a tunnel. However the other side of which has been torn apart by a senseless war, which has left behind a trail of death, now halted by a truce between the warring factions. In this context let us for a moment ponder and reflect on what Christ said when he came on his earthly mission. "I come to bring you peace" and ended his great mission on the same note "My peace I leave with you''.

Hence peace should be the central theme this Christmas. It is useless just talking about peace, saying a lot of things from rooftops or rolling in the armchair of complacency. This will never take us an inch ahead. The wheels of the peace process have moved fast over the last eleven months and gathered momentum, towards achieving lasting peace, the cherished goal of all peace loving citizens.

Let us all remember that this possibly is the last God given opportunity, if lost, it will very well spell doom forever. This thought should be in the minds not only of our rulers but all citizens in this the darkest hour in the history of our dear Motherland. Peace cannot be purchased for money or any other consideration, but only by a change of heart and attitudes. It is a spiritual reality in a human heart, which emanates from vital contact with God. There is no better time than Christmas time to banish hatred, rebellion, suspicion and create a feeling of oneness, tolerance and understanding which should take pride of place in our society at any cost.

Finally let us as Christians resolve as far as possible to shun all glitter, glamour and curtail lavish spending, feasting and enjoyment this Christmas. Instead identify ourselves with the unfortunate ones and establish justice and equality that will ensure security and freedom for all irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

We are all fully aware that thousands are refugees in the land of their birth, denied their birth rights, sheltered in makeshift camps, under trees and in the open exposed to the elements without basic rights and proper amenities. Hundreds of children have been orphaned, while hundreds of parents have lost their children. Thousands have been rendered homeless, while yet thousand others have been disabled for life, suffering in silence without a future. Let us lend a helping hand to these unfortunate brethren who suffer for no fault of theirs and spread the Christian cheer through noble deeds.

This will give them a new life and hope so that they could live in dignity, self-respect and freedom. The spirit of Christ should pervade every corner of this country to make us worthy of being called children of God.

Let us also remember that although Jesus died on the first Good Friday, he continues to die every moment of everyday to those who are broken hearted and helpless. God the Father looked upon this world with compassion and love and sent his only beloved Son Jesus Christ as the embodiment of his Kingdom's manifesto of justice, love, and peace.

The child of Bethlehem alone can give us this peace which we in our country are all seeking and yearning so desperately, and it is this child who can help us to know and live as brothers and sisters of one family.

We should honour, remember and celebrate a Christ who said "I have not come to be served but to serve. "May the Birth of Prince of Peace and his message of peace and goodwill bring lasting peace and happiness to all our people in Sri Lanka. A Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all.

Those were the sights of coffee picking
The visit of the Prince of Wales to India has made the public eager to picture to itself the scenes which are passing before his eyes, and the incidents which he has or may be supposed to have beheld. Now, in Ceylon one of the sights for a stranger is certainly coffee-picking. Coffee was originally discovered in Abyssinia 326 years ago, and from there introduced into Arabia. Subsequently it was planted in Jamaica and Java, and more recently in Ceylon and Madras. The shrub resembles a jessamine, and bears a fruit something like the cherry. The berries, being gathered, are dried in the sun, and the outer skin is then removed. Coffee cultivation has lately improved, and it is not uncommon for a planter to obtain a harvest of seven or eight hundredweight, at £5 per hundredweight per acre. The labourers are, imported from the Malabar Coast. Men Receiving, from 14$. to 17$., and the women 13$. a month. The shrub thrives best on the sides of hills and in ravines. The duty on coffee has just been reduced from 3d to 1 1/2d. in the pound. Had it been taken off entirely it would have given a better chance for the use of this wholesome beverage in the households of the poorer classes. It would have been no great loss to the Government, as the expense of collecting the present duty will probably cost as much as the amount of revenue. America now admits coffee free of duty, and the increase in consumption has been enormous. It is thought that ere long the whole of the Brazil crop will go to the United States, in which case we shall probably have to pay enhanced prices, and thus lose the boon of reduced duty.

Source - Sketches in Ceylon.
(Courtesy Dr Rajpal De Silva and Dilmah Tea)

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