Christians all over the world are about to commemorate and witness the advent of the Eternal into time and history. The supreme love of the Divine, that brought forth all creation into existence accomplish an act so astounding and incomprehensible because of that very love out of which all things came into being. The Son of the Eternal Father, embrace such poverty as to become Man because of Love. The worst poverty those in heaven and those on earth have ever witnessed being embraced when the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us! Love so profound brought the Beloved Son of the Father, the Eternal Word the King of the Universe to reveal himself in the form of a Slave. The uncontainable contained in his poverty, the unseen reveled in the form of a slave. The messiah chose the lowly city of Bethlehem to be born in, as he elevates those forgotten and lowly in the eyes of men, he came to what is his yet his own did not receive him. He the sustainer of the Universe ,as the son of the poor girl of Nazareth had to beg for shelter and in his holy nativity he was born not in the palace of kings or in the house of a peasant but lower than that he was born in the manger among animals. Indescribable humility disguised him from the eyes of those who are partial to the superficial. While the men of the orient came and paid homage to the King of Kings born in the manger, while the humble shepherds of Bethlehem vigilantly watching over their sheep were heralded the Good News by the Angels who could not contain their joy in seeing such loving condensation that elevated the Children of Adam and Eve to heights indescribable, the adversary awakened greed and envy to hunt the infant in the heart of those smitten with worldly power and influence. Daughter of Israel with her beloved son exiled to lands unknown to her, exposed to the heat of the sun , the scorching sand during the day and the bitter cold of the desert, as she went city to city begging for sustenance, enduring the crude and cruel side of humanity towards the poor, the alien, and the sick. The Son of the Father became the poor, the alien, the sick, the helpless and innocent young, the outcast, and tasted their agony their tears, their anguish, yes he carried their shame. The Father out of His indescribable love for us sent us His Only Beloved Son and we decided to kill him and everything he stood for. We turned our backs to the call of his Love.
The first among us to kill his brother, was asked ‘where is your brother?’ to which he answered an answer that will be echoed by so many of his descendants in the same spirit that was in him ‘ I do not know, Am I my brother’s keeper?’ even before the Law was given in Sinai it was written in the heart of men so the first murderer was judged according to that law written in the heart of men. For their crimes against one another for their unbridled lust and greed the Eternal Holy Spirit was grieved and judgment came upon mankind in the form of the deluge. For their crime against the poor and the alien among them the Lord turned the great cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ash. The defender of the poor, the alien, the widow and the orphans gave the Law on Sinai and commanded Love your neighbor as yourself. The messiah chose the poor widow Ruth the Moabite for his linage, and chose to bless the godly Boaz within the very act of his care for the poor . Great is the wisdom of the Lord! For he does not Judge as man does, For he works in a truly mysterious ways, who would have believed rahab , Bathsheba and Tamar would be worthy to be in the linage of the Messiah.
Who would have believed a good man would come out of Nazareth? Isaiah the prophet of the Lord, shouts with joy and proclaims 9:1-7“1Nevertheless the gloom shall not be such as was in her distress, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more heavily oppress her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.
3You have multiplied the nation, and increased the joy: they joy before you according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4For you have broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
5For every warrior's boot used in battle, and every garment rolled in blood; this shall be used for burning and as fuel for the fire.
6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
Yet even as he proclaims thus he says who has believed this News and tells of what we have done as a result because Isaiah 53:1-12“
________________________________________1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The messiah in his parables he says what many today would have labeled a ‘radical philosophy” it certainly did not serve to draw the men of power and influence to him even in those days. Yet they did not misunderstand him or the directness of his message when he told them that the rich man in the abyss begging from the former beggar Lazarus who was in the bosom of the holy patriarch Abraham, and the patriarch answers him in the manner he did, especially when he told him that his brothers on earth can listen to mosses and the prophets, if they do not listen to them, they would not listen even if one was to rise from the dead and tell them the same message. Most of all he raises the bar even higher in the New Covenant showing an even higher way when he spoke to the rich young man, and perhaps to those of us who still today question where does Christ say share your wealth with the poor, we are faced with his direct statement the meaning of which no one misunderstood even then when he says if you wish to be perfect … Matthew 19: 21-26 21Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23Then said Jesus to his disciples, Truly I say to you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Yes when it comes to the poor the Gospel is extremely radical when compared to all known economic or social philosophies of men. The issue of the poor is extremely dangerous territory very dear to the heart of the Son of God thus one must tread carefully while addressing it. whatever our political views might be, we must take care not pervert the Gospel if our aim is to say ‘ am I my brother’s keeper?’ it is one thing to admit our weakness and our failings , it’s quite another to defend them and rationalize them as if they were strength and right. If we quote Christ correctly then we know what Abba Anthony the Great heard before his departure to the deserts of Egypt, and we will also know what that young rich man heard before he abandoned Christ with a heavy heart. It is that radical that serious! If one is inquiring about the Gospel and the Poor, then one will see that the Commandment of Love is superior to any philosophy any vision. This love that manifests itself as a result of one’s love for the creator is an active love that will first transform the individual then everything else that comes in contact with the person.
The prophets braved the courts of the kings to defend the cause of the poor, to break the yoke of injustice. We know how the early Christians lived, how they condemned Christian oppressors who would dared to use their spiritual authority to exploit the poor believers, saying :if they do not work do not let them eat. yet defended championed and cared for the truly poor and the needy with love and reverence calling it the right religion!
Indeed it is greed that lead Cain to kill his brother Abel, it was greed that lead Judas to decide to betray his friend and master, at the breaking of the nard and the exchanged of words that followed St Matthew tells us that Judas went that very day to make a deal of his betrayal with the priests that wanted to kill the Lord. At the acceptance of the offering of Abel, Cain decided to kill him, at the acceptance of the offering of the nard Judas decided to betray his brother. Lest we think that his argument is valid as he appeared to care for the poor, the Gospels go in detail about the intent of his heart, so we are not fooled by his superficial lofty statement which seem to accuse Christ of hypocrisy. A foreshadow of those who will say ‘ healer heal yourself’ Yet even then Christ did not expose him for his theft but answered him directly to the why part of the question. And when he came with the authorities and kissed him in the garden, the lord called him friend when he asked him what he has done. I wonder if Cain has heard words like that from his brother Abel when he faced him with his murderous intent.
In the end we see that both our life and our death is found in the hands of Christ our neighbor. Matthew 25.
Under the commandment of love, If we love our neighbor as ourselves then with our societies , our law, as we work hard to defend, maintain our interest be it economic, cultural, political etc. we will also remember the plight of the poor, the needy, the sick, the strangers etc..Among us in all those arenas we engage in. it is true it’s a time of fasting for some Christians, and a time of remembering through what kind of poverty the Son of God made us co-heirs to the Kingdom of the Father, and we must keep in mind what kind of fasting we must observe. Isaiah 58
1“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
2For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
6“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnessa will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.
It certainly feels good to hear that there are brave Christians who would send messages to the courts of all those in authority and influence in the world and that message is the message of the Gospel “ Love your neighbors as yourselves” whether or not they are heard is another matter, but the fact that they with sincerity and love champion the poor in the Name of Christ, allows them the integrity to sing Glory be to God in the Highest and peace and good will among men.
And their “Amen” will be heard in the heavens.
Blessed Nativity Fast everyone!