We are in the time of the Nativity, but the aura is not one of Christmas, but more nearly of Good Friday. There are so many crises: the terrorist attacks, the wars the bellicose and militarist powers (The United States, France, England, Russia and Germany) jointly carry out against the Islamic State, practically destroying Syria, with the dreadful killing of civilians and children. As their own press has shown, the environment is contaminated by bitterness and the spirit of revenge in Brazilian politics, not to mention the astronomic levels of corruption. All this turns out the lights of the Nativity and fills with darkness the holiday trees that should create the environment of joy and childlike innocence that still exists in all humans.
Those who can see the movie All the Invisible Children, in seven different scenes, directed by well known film directors, such as Spike Lee, Katia Lund and John Woo, among others, can understand the destroyed lives children live in many parts of the world, children who are condemned to live off garbage and in garbage dumps. And yet there are moving scenes of comradery, of small joys in those sad eyes; and of solidarity among them.
And to think that there are millions in the world today and that the baby Jesus Himself, according to the Scriptures, was born in a manger, because there was no room for Mary, who was nearing childbirth, in any hostel in Bethlehem. He, the Son of God, joined Himself to the destinys of all the children who are mistreated by our lack of sensitivity.
Later on, that same Jesus, as an adult, would say: “who welcomes these brothers and sisters of mine, the smallest ones, welcomes me”. The Nativity takes place when this welcome is offered, such as the one Father Lancelotti organizes in São Paulo for the hundreds of street children under a viaduct, that for several years counted with the presence of President Inacio Lula da Silva.
Amidst all these disgraces in the world and in Brazil, there comes to mind a piece of wood with a fire engraved inscription, that an intern in a psychiatric hospital in Minas Gerais gave me during a visit I made to encourage the staff. Inscribed in that piece of wood is written: «Whenever a child is born it is sign that God still believes in the human being».
Can there be an act of faith and hope greater than this? In some cultures of Africa it is said that God is especially present in those we call “mad”. For that reason, the insane are adopted by everyone, and everyone cares for them as if they were their brothers or sisters. This way the insane are integrated into society, and live in peace. Our culture isolates the insane, and refuses to recognize them.
This year’s Nativity takes us to this degraded humanity and to all the invisible children whose suffering is like that of baby Jesus, who certainly in the winter of the countryside of Bethlehem shivered in the manger. According to an old legend, baby Jesus was warmed by the breath of two old horses that, as a reward, thereafter regained complete vitality.
It is worth remembering the religious meaning of the Nativity: God is neither an old bearded man with penetrating eyes, nor a stern jurist who judges all our actions. God is a child. And as a child, God judges no one. A child wants only to live and to be loved. From the manger comes this voice: «Oh, human creature, do not be afraid of God! Don’t you see that His mother has swaddled his little arms? He threatens no one. More than help, He needs to be helped and carried in an embrace».
No one understood better than Fernando Pessoa, the great portugiese poet, the human meaning and the truth of the child Jesus:
“He is the Eternal Child, the God who was missing. He is so human that He is natural. He is the Divine One who smiles and plays. This is why I know with all certainty that He is the true Child Jesus. He is a child so human that he is divine. The two of us get along so well, in the company of all, that we never think the one of the other… When I die, beloved Child, let me be the child, the smallest one. Take me in your arms and carry me to your home. Strip naked my tired and human being. Put me to bed. Tell me stories if I awaken, that I may go back to sleep. And give me your dreams to play with, until the day dawns, the one you will know”.
Seeing such beauty, can we contain our emotions? For that reason, in spite of all the distress, we still can quietly celebrate the Nativity.
I end with another message whose meaning I like: «Every child wants to be man. Every man wants to be king. Every king wants to be a “god”. Only God wanted to be a child».
Let us embrace one another as if we were embracing the Divine Child that hides within us, and who never abandoned us. And may the Nativity still be a quietly happy holiday.
Leonardo Boff is theologian and writter
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.