“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15b-16)
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of….” That was in the lyrics of a popular song back in 1965, What the World Needs Now Is Love. I believe most of us, if not everyone, would agree with that. We live in a world culture where egoistic love seems more evident than altruistic and inclusive love, which we celebrate with Christmas. The love of Christmas is about the Son of God, who empties himself, enters into our history to be with us, and through that, becomes our future. But besides love, our world also needs hope, real hope that stems from the love of Christmas and gives us the confidence to face the darkness that seems to have besieged our world.
Despite the different approaches in varying magnitudes used by different countries to break through the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, our world still reels under its clout. The global economy is still noticeably suffering from the hopefully tail end of the pandemic. As usual, the lower socioeconomic classes are bearing the brunt more than the others, although the middle class is, undoubtedly, suffering from economic stagnation or regression in different parts of the world.
Geopolitical tensions are in the daily news, and nowhere is it more noticeable than the atrocious Russo-Ukrainian War. When and how will it end? The intensifying geopolitical tensions in east Asia should also be an area of growing concern. The flagging global economy plus the geopolitics are unsettling our hearts and unnerving our spirits. The wavering prospects of 2023, between light and darkness, hope and despair, are contributing to a growing sense of hopelessness and frustration around the world. What can we do to make a difference when confronted with these harsh realities?
Christmas comes to us every year on December 25 since the Church started, on record, celebrating this holy feast on this date in 336 AD. It is meant for everyone in the world, not confined to Christians only. God’s love is for all, believers and non-believers alike. And it is out of this inclusive love that the Savior, Jesus the Lord, was sent to the world. In a world where people are excluded here and there due to their ideological and political affiliations, races and ethnicities, orientations and identities, health status and so-called normalcy, gender, religions, pedigrees, socioeconomic classes…. Christmas is a reminder of God’s ever-inclusive love and salvation for all, Christians or not. Contrary to this love are our acts of discrimination, self-serving domination or senseless destruction.
As our world starts to exit from the Covid pandemic, how are we going to re-build our communities, countries, and the world? Is it more opportune to revert to the old order or take advantage of this time to form them in the spirit of inclusion and unity in plurality? So far, we have seen tremendous efforts to maintain an entrenched ideology of domination.
We have learned from the pandemic that global suffering will continue as long as the poor and vulnerable are not provided with the necessary medication and support. And the rest will also be adversely affected by the flagging economies. Can we not imagine a world where peace, hope, and love of Christmas are celebrated through mutual care, support and self-giving, instead of self-interests coming first? After all, the best gift at Christmas is the giving of oneself for the betterment of others.
However, this self-giving action should be paired with respect and empathy. We have seen well-meaning adults and parents wanting to give their best to their younger ones, including their well-thought-out plans. Similarly, elderlies are increasingly lonely and depressed when protective measures have cut them off from their loved ones during the pandemic. Yet, these are not appreciated or welcomed by their intended recipients. Instead, we see young people becoming miserable, resentful, despairing or totally inert as a sign of protest. And elderlies have passed away in isolation without their loved ones accompanying them. The desirable way of giving is through down-to-earth accompaniment to achieve empathic and mutual understanding between givers and recipients. Then the givers will know how best to give themselves to their recipients. And how best to help them see hope.
The Son of God entered into human history as a humble and vulnerable baby, so that he could walk with and understand us as a member of humanity. Amazingly, it is through this little one that humanity can inherit eternity and enjoy total fulfilment after the present life.
A gift of love is in fact a gift of life! May we find the best way to become givers of such gift to our recipients. A heart-warming Christmas and a hope-filled 2023 to you all!
+ Bishop Stephen Chow, SJ
Fourth Sunday of Advent