Two Gospels (Matthew and Luke), in the New Testament give a glimpse of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; both have as the theological intention of the authors, the confession of Jesus as Messiah. This was experienced in the living, the teaching, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus; and later verbally confessed and put into writing.
The historical data concerning the birth of Jesus, distant in time for the authors of these two Gospels and with less theological importance --when we consider the public ministry, the passion, the death and resurrection of Christ-- should be read, as all the Good News and especially the four Gospels, under the light of the “Birth celebration”. It should be told, based on the life transforming experience which the first disciples lived right after the death of Jesus. This experience caused that group of men and women to confess that “Christ is alive”, “is resurrected from the dead”, and “is the Messiah”; the one waited for, and in whom were fulfilled --in a new context-- all the messianic promises of the Old Testament.
But, what about real historical data in the so called “infancy accounts”? The oral tradition goes all the way up to the time when Luke writes these accounts (gospel writer of this new liturgical cycle, which just began with the first Sunday of Advent), and who assures that Jesus was born a boy, in conditions of poverty; the only son of Joseph and Mary; born during the time of the census ordered by Cesar Augustus, while Cyrenius was the governor of Syria.
This historical data, —as happens with all human stories and with all the historical data which appears in the Gospels about Jesus— is wrapped in the theological intention of the authors, and is in the confessions of faith of the primitive Christian community: of David’s lineage (which is in the hereditary line from which the Messiah was suppose to come; and because of this, the ancestry of Joseph and the mention of Bethlehem); the participation of the angel (whose intervention tells of a happening /birth where the main character is God himself, as it should have been according to the prophesies of the Old Testament in reference to the Messiah).
In this manner the shepherds, Simeon, Hanna, the Temple erudites, the neighbors in Nazareth, the first Christians and Christians of all times, recognize “the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger” as the Lord and Savior of all times: beginning of, central to, and culmination of our happiness and eternal life.
This confession, as later taught and written by Paul of Tarsus, shatters Greek and Jewish logic and breaks all the wisdom molds in the world. It breaks the power schemes in the Roman Empire and establishes a new logic, new wisdom –the wisdom of God-- according to which “anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”, “he has filled the hungry with good things” . . ., and the “rich he has sent away empty”. By this logic God “chooses what is not, to confuse what is”.
That is why Christmas is a commemoration, but it is also protest. During Christmas, from the manger (as much as from the foolishness and craziness of the cross) Christians protest against the logic by which the world and relations among humans are constructed. During Christmas, from the humble manger, Christians protest against the ostentation which leaves so many hungry; against the consumerism which leaves so many in inhumane situations; and against the luxury, the waste and the squandering which insults so many who have nothing.
Christmas is, because of this, an event and confession of solidarity from God to those who need him and place in him all their trust, confidence and hope. Also because of it, in Baby Jesus and in his manger is reborn the hope of the majority: which are the rejected and marginalized by the present social systems.
It is this hope, which gives meaning to the joy manifested throughout the world during Christmas time. But it is God’s act and his wisdom which makes, in the present, that Christians construct a world according the will of God and the logic of the manger (and the cross), and not according the logic of the world. Because we, the disciples “are in the world, but do not belong to the world.”
Friends, I rejoice together with you during this 2009 Christmas; and ask the God Child to bless us all, to illumine us and to give us the strength to construct our lives, our families, our work and labors, and all our personal and social projects, following the logic which had its beginnings during Jesus’ birth in the manger in Bethlehem. MERRY CHRISTMAS!