“We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways.” -Bishop Oscar Romero
Christmas, as it is usually celebrated, is an homage to the religion of Capitalism not of Jesus. Even the attitude of sharing some of our materialistic riches with the poor has not understood what it means for the new ruler of the world to be born in a cattle stall. In liberation theology, Christmas is not just the story of an historical virgin birth, it is a revelation of how the sacred eternally enters our lives. The symbols of Christmas are not historical. We cannot know if any of them happened. They are symbols of a new vision of humankind where all have equal worth. One does not need to believe in Jesus or even God to understand. But one does need to believe in love.
The poverty of the Christ Child and the cold dark silence of the manger scene are a world apart from everything we associate with Christmas- lights, music and lavish gifts. When we look at the people in our manger scenes, we should not think of America. The faces in our nativity scenes represent the “little” people who work in our sweatshops and cower under our drones. In the modern Christmas story, we are the Roman soldiers, we are Herod, we are the owner of the hotel asked to make room for the poor. We must look beyond the horizons of our role in society if we are to enter this eternal story.
It is not enough to throw charity at the poor at Christmas. We must realize they are our brothers and sisters. We must pledge ourselves to building a new world where our brothers and sisters will have hope and dignity. We realize the impossibility of our calling, but that is the star we will follow. We, the rich and powerful, only enter the story of Christmas if we see the face of divinity in the face of the poor.
If we do not find Christ resurrected as the oppressed of our day, we will know nothing of the true Christ and nothing of the true Christmas.