Jesus was born for All
Jesus born in Bethlehem is that sun who is for all human beings irrespective of their categories. They may be people from any direction but the sun reaches its rays and warmth to all of them.
By Joe Palathunkal
The words of the angel clearly tell us that Jesus came to this world for all the people, not for some who are special: “Don’t be afraid; I am here to give you good news, great joy for all the people. Today a Saviour has been born to you in David’s town…” (Luke 2:10) This all is a counter-value today and yesterday because in the past the Jewish people firmly believed they were the chosen people of God or Yahweh.
By saying they were the chosen ones the Jews not only restricted themselves into a narrow confine but they also restricted their God too into narrow confine. A fence was made for God and people, and thus God and people were parochialized. With the birth of Jesus theocentric and anthropocentric parochialism was challenged and a vibrant universalism was born which embraced and enveloped all the people all over the world.
This disturbed the socio-political powers ruling over their own enclaves and the enslaved who could hardly question their diktats. But now the angels come and herald that “peace on earth for God is blessing humankind” (Lk. 2: 14) or for all the people of goodwill. The word “humankind” is significant and it indicates the whole humanity. Again parochialism is questioned and Jesus becomes a person for the whole world.
This universal aspect is very much evident when the angels heralded the good news to the shepherds who were watching over their flock at night taking turns. “Don’t be afraid; I am here to give you good news, great joy for all the people. Today a Saviour has been born to you in David’s town; he is the Messiah and the Lord.” (Lk. 2: 10 – 11) Again the allusion to all the people is significant.
This good news is for people of every place and category. It cannot be restricted to any one kind of people or a particular socio-political region. In this context the good news being announced to the shepherds, one of the lowest rungs of the society is important. Nobody is excluded from the purview of the good news, even the least ones in the social milieu.
Here is a challenging message for the Indian society where the lowest rungs are looked down upon and cunningly excluded from areas that matter under various excuses, alibis and pretensions. What happened to the Dalit thinker Kancha Ilaiah is now commonplace knowledge and even the atrocities meted out to the marginalized and the vulnerable ones. But the birth of Jesus takes us to a different discourse that Jesus the liberator is born for all these shackled ones.
Jesus tells us from Bethlehem that no human being is an untouchable for me, I am here to embrace and enfold every human person to give him the liberating experience of my love. The stable tells us that the place of birth is not important but your birth as a human person is important.
Don’t denigrate people in the name of the place of birth, it can be a hut or palace, it can be a family of lowest moorings but the worth and value of a human person does not depend on it but on the fact that he or she is the image of God.
In India spurning a person for his or her birth is very much part of the conventional thinking. So from Bethlehem the “Burning Babe” is asking all of us to have a serious examination of conscience. The visit of the magi again reinforces the universality implied in the birth of Jesus. They were wise men from the east.
The direction east denotes the rising sun which does not discriminate anyone but it is for all, Jesus born in Bethlehem is that sun who is for all human beings irrespective of their categories. They may be people from any direction but the sun reaches its rays and warmth to all of them. It gives them energy to live without asking who you are. Jesus too does not ask that question to any person. Irrespective of your where you are the child of God. That is enough for the Babe of Bethlehem.
To him come the three kings or magi, and remember, the three kings are from three kingdoms with separate geographical and cultural boundaries but when they come together to the Babe of Bethlehem something unusual happens – the boundaries of their kingdoms in mind altogether disappear and as one they bow to the one born to delete boundaries from all human minds. This is a crucial message of the birth of Jesus – human life without boundaries.
The mere fact that the kings came sighting star shows that it is an anti-thesis of boundaries because quite obviously the star in the sky has no boundaries – it shines for all those who can look up and see. The kings looked up and immediately they got the insight within their soul that they had to go beyond the boundaries of their kingdom to find someone who was born to remove all the boundaries of geography and demography.
But the newborn Jesus showed them how difficult it was to go beyond boundaries and to discover him in the most unexpected place – in a stable. When they met King Herod, they realized the real nature of political power that is blindly occupied with one’s own power and security. Herod told them to go and worship the newborn king of the Jews and come and inform him about the exact location.
But the dream from God told the kings to change the way and go back home because Herod wanted to destroy this child who was born for the rise and fall of many nations. All those nations which had strict boundaries to separate human beings from one another will fall and the nations which wanted to be one would rise and that will be the beginning of internationalism.
Because of this internationalism only the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights became possible and it happened on December 10 shows how the baby born in Bethlehem was instrumental in giving birth to the very idea – universal makes it for all and the prefix human makes it applicable for every human person, no boundaries of nation, region or gender.
By taking birth in a stable Jesus showed that he was connected to all living beings, not only to human beings. That breaks the barrier between the human and non-human world and makes Jesus the Lord of all. When this baby Jesus escapes to Egypt on a donkey from the brute sword of a power-hungry Herod, this relationship with the animal world is reinforced – when humans become beastly, a beast is our reliable escape to safer place.
Mary and Joseph as very ordinary people must have been wondering why the kings from far off lands came to pay homage to the newborn baby! But being born of ordinary people also shows Jesus was for the most ordinary and the ones who would not catch the attention of the high.
This ordinariness is intensified when the ordinary shepherds come to visit the baby in swaddling clothes amidst the sheep and the cattle. Here we see even the most neglected section of the society is also not excluded from the birth of Jesus though angels in high sang for him – the high and the low all were there at his birth.
But the low has a special place at the birth of Jesus which is obviously indicated through the shepherds as the messengers and stable as the place of birth. At the same time liberation theologians see the virgin birth also as a part of this relationship with the low and the ordinary as expressed by liberation theologian Dorothy Solle: “here the theme of the virgin birth is not superfluous, but is bound up with the struggle for liberation. It is decisive for the liberator to come into the world from among the poor.”
This inclusion of the high and the low, the angels and the shepherds, the kings and the ordinary, all clearly speak about the all-embracing nature of the birth of Jesus which in his later life became very obvious when he moved among the Jews and the Samaritans, the lepers and the sinners, men and women.
So his was a birth that challenged everything that built walls and marked boundaries and this message is more relevant today than ever before because today walls are being built everywhere in the name of anything and everything in an accelerated mode.
I think we will get a better understanding of this birth for all only when we see this event in the House of Bread or Bethlehem as a continuation of creation itself. When we read the Genesis it is quite clear that creation itself proclaimed universality because it was not restricted to the creation of one thing but it was the creation of all.
When God created the whole universe and made human being the crown of it, he had a purpose that all human beings have right over the whole of creation but when man divided himself in the name of religions or ideologies he cut to size this universality but the birth of Jesus reinforced this universality in the stable of Bethlehem by becoming part of the animal world and human world from all sections of society.
But I don’t think anybody has done it more beautifully theologically and artistically than the Danish philosopher, theologian and poet Soren Kierkagaard (1813 – 18) as he did in one of his famous reflections on Incarnation: “Here one rightly sees the subjectivity in Christianity. Generally the poet, the artist, etc., is criticized for introducing himself into his work. But this is precisely what God does; this he does in Christ. And precisely this is Christianity. Creation is really fulfilled only when God has included himself in it. Before Christ God was included, of course, in the creation but as an invisible mark, something like the water-mark in paper. But in the Incarnation creation is fulfilled by God’s including himself in it.”
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)
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