Laju Balani Ph.D independent Educator in World Religions writes…: “ Pope Francis’ words in 2016 wage a “non-violent confrontation” on our distorted views of Christmas: he says,
Christmas is a charade?
These aren’t exactly words you would expect from a Christian during the holiday season, much less the pope. But that’s exactly what the troublemaker Pope Francis said recently: Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, lighted Christmas trees, and manger scenes it’s all a charade.
Why is the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics shaming Christmas? The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars today everywhere, and hate. Francis said, “We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it.” God weeps; Jesus weeps. These are strong words from the Bishop of Rome.
The message is clear: a Christmas that idolizes prosperity and ignores suffering is no Christmas at all. Francis believes that Christmas is less about preaching tidings of comfort and enjoyment, and more about encountering and walking with those who are afflicted by discomfort and pain. For Francis, war-torn Aleppo, impoverished Bangui, and struggling Juarez are the cultural centers of Christmas much more than New York, London, or even Rome. Francis believes the poor and excluded must be given the primary of place in our hearts and mind during Christmas. The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor and is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect, and promote the poor.”
Mary Jane Miller writes;
After thinking about this perspective of Francis’ and talking with a priest here in Mexico I was sad. The priest also seemed a bit disgusted that we spend so much money on making Christmas something it is not and spend so little time reflecting on why or what we think we “celebrate” in the first place. It may be a good idea to re-evaluate the carnival atmosphere we have grown to accept.
In the time of Jesus’ birth, the expectation of a messiah was strong among the Jewish people. Can you imagine a messiah/hero arriving in this age, a messiah/hero who would at last set us free from every form the moral, political, and economic slavery we face under the tyranny of the wealthy and powerful governments and banking industry? The prophet Isaiah told the tribe this new liberator would beat spears and swords into plowshares and pruning hooks, and end the scandal of war. What would our new messiah/hero do with all those atomic bombs, chemical weapons and missiles we have today?
God didn’t send a military leader or a politician to save his people, but a little child born to an unwed mother, who fled violence as a refugee. No one would have expected the messiah to be born in poverty, obscurity, and exclusion, far from the cultural and political centers of the world. That child Jesus did indeed change the coarse of history and still calls us into a new time and place. The Christ story is still current, we still need to restore the undervalued life we have thrown away through hatred and destruction.
Many us feel like much of life is upside-down. There is more value in drinking coffee than kissing your kids off to school, there is more concern for our bigger bank account than a healthy stress-less life, there is more fear over protecting our boarders than learning we share one world, one planet etc.
At Christmas, the spirit of God came right into the grittiness of human dysfunction: its—violence, its disloyalty, and its absence of light and tenderness.
God’s answer to how should humans behave?, is Jesus. Rome needed a new kingdom with new rules and we do too. Our kingdom today is being broken down every day by money which breeds greed and power. Those who feel money is the driving force and profits are the hallmark of success have lost their way. Their comfort is causing undeniable discomfort. They have become blind to the better part where wisdom is sharing the wealth and power can bring about a more educated world. We have come to a place in our evolution where we need to decide; are we going to become the promised spiritual people or run rampant over each other until we know only unbearable pain and death is the only outcome?
There is a place in every heart where the last are first, the poor are blessed, and enemies are loved. It is a place in the heart for service, some sacrifice and a good deal of giving back what has been given. Women and men around the world, refugees, babies, the imprisoned, the cripple, the drunk,the addict, etc. we all want to be loved.
Francis argues that the Christmas story asks us to risk a face-to-face encounter with others, to be in their physical presence, and let it change us. We must continuously interact face to face with all aspects of the human condition to become whole. And we must stand beside one another while we do it.
True faith is inseparable from self-giving, it is the God in you giving to the God in another. It is community, rejoicing in service, and going out of our way to make reconciliation happen.
Have a Revolution of Tenderness