There are no strangers on Christmas

(Published in the Indian Express – December 25, 2016)
It is Christmas once again!

This is that time of the year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and also prepare for the coming of a new year. It is a time of merriment and joy where we celebrate not only with cakes, presents and Christmas trees but also reflect on the year that has gone by.

The message for this Christmas is humility.

The promised messiah entered this world not in the comfort of a palace with several servants, but was born in a humble manger with only shepherds to welcome him. But the shepherds were witnesses to a great event earlier when the glory of the Lord appeared to them in the form of angels. These angels informed them that a holy child would be born in Bethlehem, and that child would be found in a manger.

As the Christ would say some thirty years later –

‘For whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.’ (Matthew 23:12 NIV).

Jesus Christ taught a simple lesson of love, forgiveness, humility and brotherhood – as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.

Just as Christ’s birth is celebrated every year, it should also be a reminder that this is a good time to reflect on the year that has passed by and plan out how we approach the coming new year.

What are the lessons we have learned? What are our successes and failures? What are the things we are proud of and what are the mistakes we made that we can learn from? Christmas is the perfect time to think of these things.

We live in interesting times. There is a lot of strife, violence, terrorism, and environmental and economic difficulties in our times. But at the same time, there is a lot of hope in the fact that we are coming together as a planet. Thanks to technology and media we are no longer on the far fringes from anybody else. More than ever before, we as a planet are faced with challenges and dangers that affect us all. In such times is a perfect opportunity for us to solve our world’s problems together and together take our species into a new era of love, light, peace, prosperity, discovery, joy and happiness as one world, one people.

Humility is the message that we are thinking about this Christmas. We may think that humility is synonymous with irrelevance, but nothing could be further from the truth! Think of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Benjamin Franklin, Swami Vivekananda, Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata, Bill Clinton and our own prime minister Shri Narendra Modi. All of these people began their life journey from very humble backgrounds, but that did not deter them from achieving greatness. Humility is not the opposite of greatness, but rather the path towards it!

It is not ungodly or unrighteous to seek greatness. True humility is to strive for something great and achieve it, but to recognise that whatever you achieve is meant for God’s glory and not your own personal glory. It is up to us to solve the problems of this world. It is up to us to make this world a better place with a brighter, peaceful and prosperous future.

As U.S. President John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address on January 20, 1961:

‘Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.’

So this year on Christmas let us recognise that we all have a mission, we all have a duty to our world, we all have the responsibility to make this world a better place, but at the same time we need to do it for the glory of God. Christmas is a great day to remember this lesson – God gave the world his son to lead the people of the world to love their neighbour as themselves, to forgive one another, not to judge nor condemn but to thrive and strive towards perfection.

As Jesus said:

‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48 NIV)

In the process, remember that you are a gift to this world and like Jesus or any of the other people who have given much to this world, you have a mission, you have a gift inside you that must be given to the world. Today is a good time to look into your inner self and ask for God’s help to make you an instrument of His love, His light, His peace, His joy, His glory and His power.

We are all children of God living together on a small blue planet in a small corner of our Galaxy and there are no strangers on Christmas or ever.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year 2017.

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