The political meaning of Christmas
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - December 24, 2019 - 12:00am

Every Christmas, we are always reminded by the Catholic Church about the real meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus. And that the real meaning of Christmas is not the ostentatious celebrations, gift giving and feasts, but the compassion and love we should have for our fellow beings, especially the less-privileged and materially-deprived members of society. That we should be a more caring and sharing people, not really just during the Christmas season, but all year round.

Christmas is also a time when people turn from many divisive political issues, as it is a time for peacemaking and reconciliation from political animosities. A time for goodwill to all, political foes and allies, to be revived only after the season, especially if there is a coming election. A season of political truce with a minimum of political bickering and turf wars. These can be gleaned even in the reduced political news in both the main and social media. But people are inherently social and political animals that even under the temporary calm, there are always political machinations.

Jesus was probably born in the reign of Emperor Augustus Caesar and his stepson Tiberius, which would be between 27 BC and 14 AD. While there are conflicting dates on this issue, it is a given that Jesus was born when the Roman Empire was at its strongest. Augustus had defeated the alliance of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, consolidated all of Rome’s territories, and declared himself emperor of the Roman Empire. He considered himself the savior of the Roman Empire and a descendant of the gods. This was what Tiberius inherited. Therefore, the birth of Jesus, who is the son of the one true God was a political affront to the empire. It was only natural for King Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Perea, to seek out Jesus and kill him to put him on the good side of the emperor. So, when the three wise men (the Magi), sought his help to locate the birthplace of Jesus, Herod wanted them to inform him after they find Jesus. The Magi misled Herod. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph eventually fled to Egypt. This is basic politics; removing possible rivals or threats to the power of rulers. This was the Ampatuan’s eliminating all their rivals along with countless other innocent companions. These are the politicians who politically and economically extinguish potential political rivals long before they even become a threat to their position. These are the politicians who build political dynasties so that no other group can replace them in their powerful positions.

The birth of Jesus is just another beginning of the political cycle of revolution against oppression, injustice, and the rule by violence. The twelve tribes of David revolt against Rehoboam, Moses rebellion against the pharaoh, the revolt of the colonies against the oppressive European colonists, the French Revolution, and all the other revolutions, are continuing struggles by the oppressed for justice and truth. The current demonstrations in Bolivia, Chile, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, and many other countries are also the same struggle. Jesus’ 30-year life/career was that of a subversive by today’s standards. He had a short but meaningful life which is the “morality play” that is being played over and over again in all societies all over the world, and it is the greatest story ever told after thousands of years.

I would like to believe that over the years the world has become morally and ethically better because of all the oppressive and corrupt leaders that are accused, jailed, or held accountable by the people all over the world. Maybe, the advent of the advances of information and communication technologies has contributed and will contribute more to these positive developments.

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