December 25, 2013
This is a familiar story in Christian circle: In the Church of a particular village it was a local tradition that during Christmas, the nativity scene was built by the children. A nativity scene is a depiction of the birth of Jesus with figures of different characters like Infant Jesus, Mother Mary, Joseph, shepherds, kings, angels, animals etc. It is called as a crib. While placing the figures in the crib the figure of the Child Jesus accidentally fell and shattered into pieces. For Children, Christmas was absolutely inconceivable without the statue of babe Jesus. Suddenly, one child ran home, returned with excitement bringing a figure of Santa Claus which was about the size of the broken figure of Jesus. Children laid Santa Claus in place of Babe Jesus covered with straw. The fact that there was no Jesus in the nativity scene was noticed by all who saw the crib. People went back sad. They felt the absence of Jesus…. Everybody asked him/herself how the children could possibly have come up with the absurd idea of replacing Jesus by Santa Claus!
Three consecutive years I had a privilege of teaching around 40-50 children about 10 to fifteen Christmas carols in one of the prestigious schools in Bangalore. Children sang these carols with gusto and enthusiasm. Every time when I asked these children what they like the most of Christmas the answer was unanimous. They screamed: ‘Santa Claus, Santa Claus’. I was startled!
‘We are still in November, and my 10 year old son asked’, said the father, a friend of mine, “dad what will you keep underneath the Christmas tree this year?” The Christmas tree has become a part of Christmas. In homes all across the world we will find a Christmas tree with presents underneath. While decorating and enjoying a Christmas tree, children are told today, Santa Claus watches them all the time! He brings them gifts! He knows whether they are good or bad! He rewards them if they are good! Some of us I am sure would again listen to this song during Christmas “Everyone is waiting for the man with the bag”. He is Santa Claus. He knows everything. He has magical powers and can make us happy and our dreams come true. He’ll be here with the answer to prayers that you made through the year.
Santa Claus whom I see in Christmas season is someone in costume. An overweight old man with big belly and grey beard who dresses himself/herself red suite with white trim and a matching cap. The gifts he brings in his bag are handful of sweets. He is a show-piece of entertainment. He comes and goes. We all of us can fit into his shoes wearing costumes and mask on of Santa Claus. But the joy of Christmas is inseparably bound with the fact of God becoming human person. Jesus the Word of God, Wisdom of God and Son of God became man, came to this world to dwell among us to save us and not to abandon us. As human person, He came into this world not wearing costumes of man and mask on. He became real tangible flesh. This is the mystery of Christmas – mystery of Incarnation.
In Hindu Dharma the term used for the incarnation is ‘avatara’. The Sanskrit word "avatar" literally means "descent of God. According Hindu conception, god actually appears on this earth in various forms to fulfill certain specific purposes. The Bhagavad-Gita says that God punishes the wicked, protects the good and establishes dharma. Hindu belief proclaims that God assumes a normal form (either human or animal), but, even in that form, his transcendental power becomes unmistakably manifest. Vaishanvism speaks of Dashavataras, the ten avataras of Vishnu in the form of fish, tortoise, boar, man-lion, dwarf, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Budddha and the tenth Kalki which is yet to come…
Swami Shivananda, one of Ramakrishna's disciples, said: "If God does not come down as a human being, how will human beings love him? That is why He comes to human beings as a human being. People can love Him as a father, mother, brother and friend”. "Incarnation" means: ‘God becomes man’. This short sentence is filled with meaning. It expresses the conviction that God has made Himself known fully, specifically and personally, by taking our human nature into himself, by coming amongst us as a particular man, without in any way ceasing to be the eternal and infinite God. St. Augustine avers, “Not man, who can be seen, should be followed, but God, who cannot be seen. So then, that we might be shown one who would be both seen and followed, God became man.” Christmas is the humility of God to shun human pride which is the greatest stumbling block to cling to Him. In order that weakness [human person] might become strong, strength [God] became weak.
Christmas says much about the goodness and love of God. The Bible says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (Jn 3:16). It is the world of all mankind, people of every race, tribe, tongue and language, regardless of social and economic conditions. In His goodness God just loves this world and wants to save us. He comes in search of us. Jesus, then rightly is the reason for the season. He is the focus of Christmas. Nothing can take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ and nobody can usurp His place. Santa is just a commercialized symbol of Christmas, symbol of entertainment, fun, proliferate spending and extravagant gifts. The Babe of Bethlehem in the cradle is not interchangeable with Santa Claus. That is why people in the village had a keen sense and at least at this point, they grasped the true value of Jesus. His presence, His peace and love is precious and valuable gifts. The only attitude one needs today is to worship and adore this Jesus Christ as Lord and God to make Christmas meaningful and live and spread His message of peace.
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