I love Christmas.
As a kid, I think what I loved about Christmas was that it made God available to me. Made him come within my reach.
During the advent season, the image of a huge old man in a great flowing robe and long white beard who pulled out his trump card weapon of thunderbolts to vanquish Lucifer and his rebel legions, who threw Adam and Eve mercilessly out of the paradise, who punished the erring Israelites through ages, was replaced by a very human and vulnerable god lying on a piece of cloth spread over hay among cows and sheep. The idea of Mary and Joseph knocking from door to door to find a place to deliver none less than the son of god himself, the pictures of the baby Jesus in the Xmas cards, the little figures in the cribs at home, the bigger ones in the churches - all these humanized the almighty who, I believed, dwelt in some remote, inaccessible regions. Making crib was a regular practice in my home. It was high excitement time for us. My siblings and I used to roam in the house, in the compound to pick up items that’d form part of the little crib. It used to fill me with a sense of making a home for the baby God when he arrives
I must say, in my mid fifties, I still get a somewhat same feeling when I make a crib, when Christmas comes around. That part of me has not grown up still.
And then there were the carols. We loved them. They fired the imagination, and created a feeling of joy shot through with a sense of awe at the enormity of the god becoming man event. Rudolf the red nosed reindeer’s story convinced us that this little guy lying in the manger is a God of the underdog. These songs celebrated the triumph of love with tumultuous joy, the reconciliation of god and man and the love of god which made him come down and teach an erring civilization to turn away from its brutal ungodly, inhuman ways so as to bring peace on earth and goodwill among men. The three kings of orient with their gifts of gold, myrrh, frankincense bestowed an aura royalty and exoticism to the nativity scene.
As a kid, how I loved Christmas!
Of late, I find myself discussing certain issues which I normally avoid, with people with different views on them. I wonder why I do it, why I’ve finally decided to face these issues which I had hitherto avoided, in order to be politically correct, or to maintain an image of myself which was not exactly an honest one. Turning the question over in my mind, I now realize that there comes a time in the life of every human being when certain things have to be sorted out and not dodged each time they surface.
Can a virgin become pregnant and bear a child, as prophesied in the Old Testament, and stated in the Gospels?
My mind says, well, why not? If, today, man , with the aid of medical technology, can impregnate a virgin without male physical intervention, why should it not be possible for that extra terrestrial creator of the galaxies who has been micro and macro managing his creations for billions of years?
Do prayers and rituals make sense?
Well. Who are we to say no? Prayers and rituals are our medium to communicate with that celestial force whose existence man has never been able to deny, or eliminate from his consciousness, despite the rationalists’ efforts and the scientific debates. Isn’t that reason enough to prove the existence of a controlling force? And we need to communicate with that force. And we do it through prayers and rituals and religious practices. I once had an argument with a scientist who ridiculed me for resorting to structured prayers.
“The very idea of god bewilders me” he said. “Imagine the mind blowing nature of his creation. How can your puny novenas mean anything to him?”
“How then do you pray?” I ventured.
“I think of Him, the enormity of his performance, and then I can’t pray. I feel inadequate.”
Well then, I’m better off, I thought to myself, but I didn’t respond to him then. But today, I’d be more vocal. A force which is able to create on such a massive scale paying attention to trillions and trillions of minute details, isn’t he capable of deciphering the puny jumble of sounds emanating from none other than his own creatures?
To my scientist friend I can now give this answer. Any form of communication raised to the almighty will not go wasted. We humans need to raise our thoughts to the eternal regions. My way or style may not make sense to my neighbor but it’ll make sense to that power above which gave us that capacity to raise our voice to him. If my way of communicating to god gives me the satisfaction of having communicated (it comes in the form of a peace: “I give you peace, my peace I give you”), that’s enough.
Who is anyone to say that the arduous pilgrimage to Sabarimala, or the tulabharam at Guruvayur, or the novenas to our lady or the way of the cross or the haj are exercises in futility? That’s our way of reaching out. The human way of communicating to that unknown God whose presence continues to be experienced in the human heart after millions of years of life on this planet.
And so, I am not apologetic about celebrating the birth of God this Christmas. The conflict has been resolved. The almighty can choose his ways of reaching out to us. How foolish of us humans to rationalize his ways applying our inadequate intellectual yardsticks! Aren’t there truths that lie beyond our rational faculties? Is the mighty creator so limited that he can be contained in our cerebral space?
Enough that I raise my voice. The great and mighty creator of this vast cosmos would sort out my jumbled sounds in his way, in his time.