Christmas: the Herods of yesterday, today and the divine child

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The birth of the divine child assures us that the Herods of death will never triumph

The ancient accounts of the Divus Puer (the divine child) always gain new meanings depending on changes in times and historical contexts. We read and interpret them with today's eyes, within the framework of a somber situation, marked by the death of millions around the world and thousands among us under the treacherous attack of a lethal virus. We discovered similarities and few differences between the Christmas of yesteryear and today. In fact, in a symbolic reading, we have to do with something that affects all humans.

On one side, we have José and Maria, his wife, nine months pregnant. They come from Nazareth, from the north of Palestine to the south, in Bethlehem. They are poor like most Mediterranean artisans and peasants. At the gates of Belém, Maria goes into labor: she holds her belly, as the long walk has accelerated the process. There is a knock at the door of an inn. They hear what the poor in history always hear: “there is no room for you in the inn” (Lk 2,7:XNUMX).

They lower their heads and walk away worriedly. How will she give birth? They had an animal stable in the neighborhood. There is a manger with straw, an ox and a donkey that, strangely, remain still, watching. She gives birth to a child among the animals. It's cold. She wraps him in cloths and arranges him in the straws. Whimpers loudly like all newborns.

There are shepherds who keep watch at night, watching over the flock. They are considered impure and, therefore, despised – because they are always around animals and their excrement. Surprisingly, a light enveloped them and they heard a voice from above announcing: “do not be afraid, I announce to you a great joy that is for all the people; the Savior has just been born; this is the sign: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger". As they hurriedly set off on their way, they heard a melodious song, with many voices, coming from on High: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men loved by God” (Lk 2,8:18-XNUMX). They arrived and everything that had been communicated to them was confirmed: there is a baby, shivering, swaddled in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, with animals.

Some time later, behold, coming down the path, three wise men from the East. They knew how to interpret the stars. They arrive. They were enraptured by the mystery of the situation. They identify in the boy the one who would heal the wounded human existence. They bow reverently and leave symbolic gifts. With a light heart, amazed, they take the way back, avoiding the city of Jerusalem, because there reigned a terribly bellicose person.

Lesson: God entered the world, in the dead of night, without anyone knowing. There is no pomp or glory, which we would imagine befitting a child who is God. But he preferred to come outside the city, among animals. He did not appear in the chronicle of the time, nor in Jerusalem, much less in Rome. However, there is the One whom the universe has been gestating within itself for billions of years, that “true light that illuminates every person who comes into this world” (Jn 1,10).

We must respect and love the way God wanted to enter this world: anonymous as anonymous are the great poor and despised majorities of humanity. I wanted to start at the bottom so as not to leave anyone out. Their humiliated and offended situation was the one that God himself wanted to make him.

But there are also sages and men who study the stars of the universe and who grasp behind appearances the mystery of all things. Enter into this boy with a shivering little body, who wets his cloths, whimpers and searches hungrily for his mother's breast, the Supreme Meaning of our walk and of the universe itself. It's also Christmas for them.

It is true what is said there: “Every boy wants to be a man. Every man wants to be king. Every king wants to be God. Only God wanted to be a boy”.

That's one side, good news: a ray of light in the middle of the dark night. A little light has more rights than all darkness. From there comes rescue, a revolution within evolution that, in advance, reached its fullness. Anyway…

But there is another side, dark and also tragic. There is a Herod who feels threatened in his power as a sovereign by the presence of this boy. José, attentive, soon realizes: he wants to have the boy killed. He flees to Egypt with Mary and the baby in his arms who is sleeping, looks for the breast and goes back to sleep.

Herod is bloodthirsty. For safety he had all the children of Bethlehem and the surrounding area killed from two years old and under. That way the baby Jesus would not escape. Then was heard one of the most moving cries in all of Scripture: "In Ramah a voice was heard, much weeping and groaning: it is Rachel who weeps for her murdered children and does not want to be consoled because she has lost them forever”(Mt 2,18).

The Herods perpetuate themselves in history. There is one among us who does not love life, who mocks the lethal virus, who does not sympathize with the tears and cries of thousands of families who have lost children, siblings, relatives and friends. People who don't feel consoled until justice is done. Denies vaccine protection to children and young people between 5 and 11 years old. They can be contaminated, contaminate and even die. He doesn't want to because he doesn't want to, contrary to science and countries that are vaccinating their children. He got used to denialism, seeming to have made a pact with the virus. The voices of parents and grandparents can be heard, coming from all sides: “I want the lives of my sons and daughters; I want them vaccinated; I want my grandsons and granddaughters to be vaccinated”.

Like Pharaoh, he hardened his heart and fed the purpose of the Herod of the boy's time. But there will always be a star, like that of Bethlehem, to light our paths. As perverse as our Herod is, he cannot prevent the sun from rising each morning bringing us hope, the one who was called “the sun of hope”.

This joy is unheard of: our humanity, weak and mortal, from Christmas onwards began to belong to God himself. That's why something of ours has already been eternalized by the Divine Child who assures us that the Herods of death will never triumph.

Merry Christmas to all with lots of light and discreet joy.

*Leonardo Boff he is a theologian. Author, among other books by Christmas: the humanity and joviality of our God (Voices).

 

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