As Christmas Day dawns, many analysts and casual observers are speaking of the global financial crisis as an opportunity for governments and people to reassess the values that have been guiding attitudes and behaviours, and to begin to act and live in new ways. This is all to the good, but is not all we can wish for.
Some speak of the downturn in the economy as being good for Christmas, expressing the hope that dominant materialism will be forced to take a back seat and true solidarity and friendship will come to the fore. Others, sensing in the present state of affairs something extraordinary, say this is “not a cyclical adjustment, but rather the end of the world as we know it”. There is much fear and uncertainty.
In this Christmas season it is important that the message at the heart of this celebration be not lost in the negatives and positives of the topsy-turvy economic climate. The truth that is at risk of being clouded over is that God became man. Says St John: “The Word was made flesh, he lived among us”. This is to say that that the one who gives meaning to life is with us. The message of the Incarnation is the message that the world needs to receive most of all.
The economic crisis gives us a clue that this message has not been received and that the world has not responded to this truth in the way it should. The words of St John still ring true: “The Word was the true light ... He was in the world that had its being through him, and the world did not know him”.
FEAR OF THE LORD
The global economic problem, the greed and selfishness that triggered it, is only one clue that alerts us to the fact that the message of Christmas has not drawn the right response. For us in Trinidad and Tobago, a record of 530 murders at the start of the Christmas week suggests that the truth about Christmas has not been effectively passed on to our children and lived among us, or simply not believed.
The fear that grips those who receive visits from angels in the Nativity story and other parts of Scripture is very different from the kind in today’s landscape. The ancient fear –“fear of the Lord”, awe and reverence in God’s presence – is defined in the Scriptures as the beginning of wisdom. It is to recognise the holy in our midst.
One of the advantages that arise from the present difficulties is that it can lead to a desire and discovery of the holy in our midst.
Our hope and the greatest wish must be that, in spite of all that disturbs us, Christmas 2009 discloses to the hearts of more and more people the reality of a God who is with us and calls us to walk in his presence. The good news of Christmas, too, is that as Christ is born anew in the hearts of his people, he gives them also the power to make him present to others.
In opposition to all that may be happening around us, the angel’s message must go out: “I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today ...a saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).