Com-memorate christmas, re-member the beginning
By: Mario J. Paredes
There are men and women whose lives we cannot ignore. December has arrived, and with this month also come the Christmas celebrations. We decorate our streets and ourselves, we exchange messages, and we have gifts, parties, premieres, trips, and family reunions. We have lights and music, family dinners, etc. At the same time, the mercantilist frenzy and the myriad Christmas symbols surrounding us are causing us to lose the sense and meaning of Christmas. Millions of human beings around the world celebrate Christmas but do not know what they are celebrating or why.
Christmas is not just another holiday and a day of rest on our calendars. Christmas commemorates (remembers – evokes – recalls), as the word indicates, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. With his birth, we recognize that his life became Good News, a message, call, and challenge for all humanity, an invitation for us to build a better world that is more humane, just, and supportive for all.
Believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians, celebrate the Christmas season. Amidst the December hustle and delirium, we must remember to live our Christmas celebrations with the reason we rejoice in the season: the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, whose style and life’s purpose contain, in themselves, a proposal for every man and woman of goodwill: an invitation to live life in service to all, especially to the most vulnerable among us, as a way to build genuine human relationships, through the commandment of love, recognizing that we are all brothers, children of the same God, Creator and Father of all.
All this means that we must depart from the world’s usual logic and go against the grain. All this assumes a different criterion than the one that the world sells us. Because while the world encourages us to hoard, Jesus invites us to give and give of ourselves. While the world tells us to look after ourselves and protect our own interests with insurance policies, Jesus of Nazareth invites us to gift our existence to the service of all. While the world pushes us to compete in the violent struggle for power and money, Jesus of Nazareth invites us to be first in sharing and giving in order to ensure the happiness that all – believers and non-Christians – yearn for.
Amidst our difficult circumstances at home and abroad, we truly need today the authenticity of Jesus of Nazareth! We truly need the authority and coherence of the life of the carpenter from Nazareth! How far and lacking today’s world is from the criteria, principles, and values lived and preached by Jesus of Nazareth! How far we are from reaching the Christian utopia of a world where we can all live together as brothers and sisters! How much we need to live in the truth, love, justice, forgiveness, hope, and abundant life lived and preached by Jesus of Nazareth!
The life of Jesus of Nazareth and his message are, therefore, an obligatory reference point, call, path, and task for all of us who yearn for a happy existence and better world, one that is more peaceful, just, livable, fraternal, supportive, compassionate, and human.
How good that we celebrate, but better – how good that we commemorate! How good that we celebrate Christmas, but – even better – how good that we remember what we celebrate! Every celebration is always a memory and a reference to the past. May our present celebration remind us of the past and also transform – hopefully – our lives today and in the future. Today we remember what happened in Judea and Galilee two thousand years ago with the hope that – from the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth – we build better personal, family, and social stories.
Christmas is, therefore, a great feast day, a Christian feast day, and a universal celebration because the purpose and message of the life of the little boy in the manger in Bethlehem are still valid for everyone. Because today we need the deeds and words of the Nazarene more than ever in a world that cries out for justice, truth, peace, and abundant forms of life and humanity, and because the gospel of the carpenter of Nazareth is about to be released.
Merry Christmas to all!
Mario J. Paredes is CEO of SOMOS Community Care, a network of 2,500 independent physicians—most of them primary care providers—serving close to a million of New York City’s most vulnerable Medicaid patients.
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