Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas: Whenever a child is born, it's a sign that God still believes in human beings

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl) (em português)
December 23, 2015

We are in the Christmas season but the aura isn't Christmas-like; it's more like Good Friday. There are so many crises, terrorist attacks, wars which the bellicose and militaristic powers (USA, France, England, Russia and Germany) have waged together against Islamic State, nearly destroying Syria with a stunning death rate of civilians and children as the press itself has shown, the atmosphere contaminated by rancor and a spirit of vendetta in Brazilian politics, not to mention the astronomical levels of corruption -- all this dims the Christmas lights and and dampens the Christmas trees that should create an atmosphere of joy and childlike innocence that still exists in every human person.

Whoever was able to see the film "All the Invisible Children", in seven different scenes directed by renowned directors such as Spike Lee, Katia Lund, John Woo among others, realized the destroyed lives of children in many parts of the world, condemned to live off of trash and in trash, and yet there are touching scenes of camaraderie, small joys in the sad eyes and solidarity among them.

To think that there are millions in the world today and that the child Jesus himself, according to the scriptures, was born outside in a manger for animals because there was no room for Mary, who was in labor, in any inn in Bethlehem. He mixed with the fate of all these children abused by our insensitivity.

Later, that same Jesus as an adult would say, "whoever receives the least of these my brothers and sisters, receives me." Christmas takes place when hospitality such as that which Father Lancellotti organized in São Paulo for hundreds of street children under a viaduct -- and which counted for years on the presence of President Lula -- happens.

In the midst of all this misfortune, in the world and in Brazil, the piece of wood comes to mind with an inscription in pyrography that an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital in Minas Gerais gave me during a visit I made there to cheer the attendants up. On it was written, "Whenever a child is born, it's a sign that God still believes in human beings."

Could there be an act of faith and hope greater than this? In some cultures in Africa, it is said that God is present in a special way in those we call "crazy." So they are adopted by everyone and everyone cares for them as if they were a brother or sister. So they are integrated and live peacefully. Our culture isolates and doesn't acknowledge them.

Christmas this year brings us back to this aggrieved humanity and to all the invisible children whose sufferings are like those of the child Jesus who, certainly in the severe winter of the Bethlehem countryside, was shivering in the manger. According to ancient legend, he was warmed by the breath of two old horses who as a reward then gained full vitality.

It is worth remembering the religious significance of Christmas: God is not an old bearded man with penetrating eyes, and a ruthless judge of all our actions. He is a child. And like a child, He judges noone. He just want to live and to be cherished. From the manger comes this voice: "O human being, do not be afraid of God. Can't you see His mother swaddled His little arms? He doesn't threaten anyone. More than helping, he needs to be helped and carried in her arms."

No one understood the true human meaning of baby Jesus better than Fernando Pessoa [1]:

"He's the Eternal Child, the God that was missing.
He's the human being that's natural,
He's the divine being that smiles and plays.
And that's how I know for certain
That he's really the Child Jesus.

And the child who's so human, he's divine...

We get along so well together
In the company of every thing
We never think of one another...

When I die, my little son,
Let me be the child, the smallest one.
Take me in your arms
And carry me inside your house.
Undress my tired human frame
And lay me in your bed.
Tell me stories if I waken
So I can fall asleep again.
And give me your dreams to play with
Until whatever day is born,
A day -- and you know which."

Can emotion be contained in the face of so much beauty? Because of this, in spite of everything, it's still worth quietly celebrating Christmas.

Finally, this last simple and lovely message is highly significant: "Every little boy wants to be a man. Every man wants to be king. Every king wants to be God. Only God wants to be a little boy."

Let us embrace one another, as if embracing the Divine Child (the puer aeternus) that is hidden in us and never abandoned us.

And may Christmas still be a quietly happy feast.

Leonardo Boff wrote O Natal, a bondade e a jovialidade de nosso Deus (Vozes,Petrópolis 2003).

[1] The English translation of the fragment of Fernando Pessoa's poem is taken from Poems of Fernando Pessoa, translated by Edwin Honig.

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