Make every day Christmas Every day is Christmas, when you have the kind of mind that stores up all the goodness and the sweetness it can find. When you don’t need an occasion, to spread a bit of cheer, but just keep on a-giving, of yourself throughout the year. Every day is Christmas, with a [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Christmas features


Make every day Christmas

Every day is Christmas,
when you have the kind of mind
that stores up all the goodness
and the sweetness it can find.
When you don’t need an occasion,
to spread a bit of cheer,
but just keep on a-giving,
of yourself throughout the year.

Every day is Christmas,
with a gaily wrapped surprise,
when you see the friendship,
in someone else’s eyes.
When you try a little harder,
and complain a little less,
holding fast to all the fervour
of the faith that you possess.

Every day is Christmas,
when you’ve found that you can be
more concerned with words like “you”
and less with “I” and “me”.
When it’s fun to do a favour,
and to lend a helping a hand,
when being understood means less,
than when you understand.

Every day is Christmas,
with a beauty deeply cast,
when you find it doesn’t matter,
if you’re first or if you’re last.
When you can face your conscience,
and be glad of who you are,
Then every day is Christmas,
with a stable and star.

Maureen de Zilwa

Bourgeois and the proletariat meet at the stable

Inn and Innkeepers oppressing
The inhabitants of the Stable
’Tis ancient and modern problem
It’s always a bloody rumble
Bourgeois and the proletariat
To solve this who will be able
God as human came to a home
Incarnating among poor unable

Bethlehem – village of celebrated sheep boy
David became king – liberating poor with joy
Ever the symbol of the Giant feller’s bravery
How’s Bethlehem in this age of urban slavery

Kings and shepherds meet at the Stable paying homage
Learned and unlettered find fraternity near His personage
Gold meets myrrh oppressor and victim bow to Royal Sage
Greatest Story ever told from race to race and age to age

O the Stars of Bethlehem silent watch they keep
How do moderns help my children hope upkeep
Let the children come to Me – as a Child I came
I share their care with you – tend, watch in my name

Carpenter’s troth to village Maid
To Bethlehem on ass they amble
Cold night straw their bed made
God Human makes saving gamble
In their garb and lingua to habitate
We’ll to better for needy stable
Two millennia have rolled on
He’s coming to turn the tables

Dr. Lalith Mendis

Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season

By Renuka Jeyaraj

The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ is here once again. Homes, shops and streets are decked out with fairy lights and glittering baubles. Christmas trees sparkle, and children’s faces glow with happy anticipation as they await the arrival of Santa Claus. Strains of old familiar carols waft through shops filled to capacity with busy shoppers buying gifts for loved ones or picking up a seasonal bargain. Cards are in the post and turkeys, hams and mince pies are ready for the oven. People everywhere say to each other, ‘the Christmas Spirit has come.’

The ‘spirit of Christmas’ is probably the most used phrase of the season. The very words evoke a feeling of excitement and expectancy, yet few stop to think about what it really means. To many of the over two billion people of different faiths who celebrate Christmas around the world, the revelry and rituals that mark the feasting and merry-making are the true spirit of Christmas.

To imbibers, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit that cheers and is found in a bottle.  To others, Santa Claus, without whose presence no Christmas event seems complete, embodies the spirit of Christmas.

Fiction, too, has tried to define the true spirit of Christmas. Perhaps the Dickensian tale of Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ comes closer to the truth. Scrooge is transformed from a selfish miser to a generous and compassionate man after an encounter with the spirit of Christmas in the form of ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.

The true Spirit of Christmas is not cloaked in a feeling or ritual. It is about lives transformed after an awesome experience – an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God gifted the world His dearly loved son to live among us and to die for us because of His great love for us. It is this holy birth of God’s perfect son that we celebrate at Christmas and it is only He who embodies the true Christmas spirit, the spirit of ultimate love, generosity and forgiveness that made a sacrifice too amazing for the human mind to grasp.

Most of us have heard the Christmas story, of a baby boy, fully human yet fully God, who was born in a manger in a quaint and busy town, surrounded by barnyard animals. Mary His mother and Joseph His earthly father, a host of adoring angels, worshipping shepherds and wise men from the East complete the idyllic scene. Here at last was the long- awaited Messiah, whose coming was foretold by prophets hundreds of years earlier. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14).

But we must look beyond the cosy scene to the reason behind this momentous event which divided time and dated history into events occurring either before Christ (BC) or After Christ (AD – Anno Domini). Why did Jesus leave all the glories of heaven where he was adored and worshipped to be born into a world of poverty and hardship, where he was doubted and ridiculed, then die an agonising, humiliating death on the cross? Because if he had not done so we would have died in our sins and been lost forever in a horrific afterlife of which we get a glimpse from the vivid descriptions in Dante’s Inferno.

Our sinful nature separated us from a holy God and only a pure sacrifice could remove this separation. Only Jesus, who had committed no sins, was perfect and therefore able to make this sacrifice. On his own accord, Jesus took our sins on himself by dying for imperfect people like you and me, no matter who we are, what we have done, or what we believe. Such a sacrifice is mind-boggling. As Romans 5:7 puts it, ‘it is a rare event when someone gives up his life for the sake of a good person, although possibly for a truly good person one might have the courage to die,’ but it takes super-human love to die for a sinful and uncaring world.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross made us clean and whole and paved the way to a close and personal relationship with God. We now have the privilege of calling the Creator of the universe our Father and are assured by Him that we too can enjoy the splendours of heaven with Him, before which all the riches of earth pale in contrast. This brings us peace and joy and gives us the confidence to endure the pain and sorrows of this world because we know that they are only temporary, because ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain… (Revelation 21:4)

As we celebrate Christmas, we remember that the advent of Jesus brings us healing and hope and fills the emptiness in our lives. We can now live a life free of earthly trappings, which does not depend on experiences or traditions to provide a feeling of warmth, love, harmony, and happiness, “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17). We can experience the peace and joy of that first Christmas and keep it forever in our hearts.

Thank God for Jesus. He is the reason for the season.

Christmas is too holy to be polluted

By Lenard R. Mahaarachchi

Christmas, the mysterious advent of the Son of God on Earth two millennia ago will be celebrated this week with the same festivities that have accompanied it down the centuries. Though a holy event, the Birth of the Man-God, the celebration has been made a pantomime by none other than the very adherents of Christ’s religion, with unnecessary customs and rituals. God, who made the universe and men in it, had to ultimately send His Beloved Son, to be a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. This is the basis of the feast and Christmas, means the Mass of Christ, Mass here meaning sacrifice.

We asked a priest who prefers to remain anonymous to explain the religious meaning of Christmas

Q: Has Christmas been celebrated since the time of the infant church?

There is no record of the birth of Jesus being celebrated in the first two centuries, but, around AD 335 there was a pagan feast in Rome, in honour of the sun god Ra, called “Saturnalia”. The Pope not wishing to disturb the faithful with their preoccupation with an ungodly feast is said to have introduced Christ as the “Son of Righteousness” and asked them to celebrate His Birthday instead. So initially it was a replacement of a pagan celebration. In time, the feast spread to the neighbouring Christian countries.

Q: Was there a reason for the early Christian community not to commemorate the birth of Jesus during the first two centuries ?

Yes. There were two reasons. In ancient Rome celebrating birthdays of individuals was taboo, save that of the emperor and naturally Christians did not dare violate the law of the land. The second was that the infant church expected Christ to return in glory any time.

Q: Are there records in history referring to the life and times of Christ?

There are many. His life is in religious history and in world history too. The synoptic gospels of Mathew and Luke detail the time of His birth. Palestine was then under Rome and governed by Augustus Caesar. He had ordered a census during which period Jesus was born. This census is recorded as having taken place around 5 BC. Even the strange Comet that the gospels record is said to be a recurrence every 794 years, an astronomical event caused by a Jupiter Saturn meeting in the firmament.

Artist's depiction of the second coming of Jesus Christ (AFP)

If you look for a local event in history in Sri Lanka at the time, King Bathiya (Bhathikabaya) was the ruling monarch here in Anuradhapura when Augustus was head of Rome. Jewish historian Josephus in his book 18 (Antiquities) mentions Christ adding that not only Jews but Greeks too followed Jesus’s teachings. Tacitus, another historian of the time, refers to Jesus in his report (AD 1160) about the fire in Rome in 64 AD blaming the Christians that the fire was caused by them. Pliny, the procurator of Rome, in a report to Trajan, refers to Christ. A letter by Emperor Hadrian to Fundamus, a pro consul in Aia in 125 AD, refers to Jesus and there are many other references to the followers of Christ’s religion.

It is not known as to when Christmas was first celebrated. But an ancient record has it this way. In Nicomeia in Asia Minor, the memory of the death of the many hundreds of martyrs on Christmas day is recalled. They had assembled for the Eucharist when Emperor Diocletian ordered the doors to be closed and fuel heaped on all sides of the building. At the entrance of the church was placed a tripod with incense. A crier cried out that whoever wanted to escape death could step out and offer incense to Jupiter. None came out. The fire was lit, and the martyrs had the good fortune to be in heaven on the very day of Jesus’s birth on earth as their Saviour.

Q: When did Christmas come to be celebrated in our land?

It is speculated that when the Portuguese came here in November 1505, they had kept the event of Jesus’s birth on a low key. It can be speculated that ever since it may have been observed without a break. There is a record of a Black Christmas kept in 1689 by Blessed Joseph Vaz who celebrated midnight mass in secret in a Catholic house in Sillalai, Jaffna. The Dutch Governor Adrian Van Reede ordered his men to raid the premises and the soldiers assaulted the participants . However providence is said to have kept Fr. Vaz safe from the marauders.

Q: How should we celebrate the holy birth of Jesus today?

For us living as we do in the 21st century, Christmas has no meaning unless it is related to the glorious 2nd Coming of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It has to be a preparation for that. If Christians of the 1st century expected Jesus then, how much more should we now that His Advent is imminent. Let Christians prepare through this Christmas, for the glorious 2nd Coming of Jesus.

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