Last November I was introduced to a very interesting quote by one of my professors. The quote attributed to a 14th century German monk, mystic and a theologian, Meister Eckhart reads: “We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.” If we remember well we have heard people around us urging us to be God’s representatives, God’s agents, and yes God’s children, but, being God’s mothers? How could that be possible? Can God have a mother? More problematically, a mother in each of us? Well, I’d suggest we leave those “theological debates” aside because I believe Eckhart’s quote is profound and has much significance for us today.
Have we ever thought about what makes Christmas Christmas? I guess that thought rarely occurs to us except perhaps on the day of Christmas when the Man in the altar addresses that question to somehow assure us that we’ve got everything under control. But take a moment to think with honesty: Is Christmas to us really about Christ or is it something that we just say to heighten our religiosity? If it is really and only about Christ, Christmas then should be taking on a whole new meaning altogether.
It is no news to us that Christmas today is defined and determined by the market. The market decides what needs to be eaten and worn during Christmas and how and with whom Christmas must be celebrated. If it were a musical Christmas’ festivity and euphoria would be wonderfully orchestrated by the market, right? In fact the logic of capitalism has captivated the Church as well that even when the Church tells us what Christmas really is through its sermons its sparkling and outrageous novelties seems to betray its message. What then about us? Don’t price tags regulate our behaviour? When manufacturers strategically introduce products and shopkeepers aim at disposing products at “low” costs at the yearend we become “shopaholics,” only never to repent of it. The market knows how to evoke that ‘Christmassy’ feeling in us to our own convenience and happiness. And after all this we blatantly convince ourselves that Christmas is really only about Christ. The market has made Christmas a season of “Piece and Goods to all” as against “Peace and Goodwill to all.” Worse yet, and to our own disgrace, it has taken the “all” more seriously than us.
At a time such as this, how do we make sense of this season? To answer this I suggest we get back to the biblical narrative without the garb of the modern culture and self-seeking theologies. The ‘Christmas’ narrative reminds us that there were a people who were longing for a messiah, someone to save them from the political and economic oppression they were in. The longing and expectation among the people weighed so much that God couldn’t but not intervene. And so it is in the midst of hopelessness, pain and oppression God chose to be born. Christ wasn’t born to simply die as most Christians ineptly claim (see the pictures below). Christ came to proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, give sight to the blind and free the oppressed (Luke. 4:18). It was this that got him killed. Even before Jesus proclaimed his mission in the Synagogue, Mary knew it all too well, and we find it in her Song: He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty (Luke. 1:52-53). Both these texts proclaim the reason for Christ’s birth – to question the powers that be, bring about a reversal in the social order and liberate the oppressed. This was the reason God chose to be born.
Having stated the reason for Christ’s birth, let me tell you why, I believe, Eckhart’s quote speaks to us today. Just like the people who expected a saviour back then there are many today who have the same hope and expectation, someone to liberate them from man-made chains and bondage. With the levels of anticipation constantly increasing due to the turmoil happening around in the world God is surely in need of being born again. People around us are homeless, hungry, suffering and dying and if Christmas is only about festivities and novelties, then this event is meaningless. We can abandon it altogether. But if Christmas is about God wanting to be born in each one of us yet again, to bring about hope and salvation to those in need of it in this life, we must become mothers by giving birth to Christ. Yes, we need to become mothers of God.
The season is a season of expectations, hopes, and aspirations and people on the streets, people in chains, and people in closets do have them. Rather than merely (and often frivolously) celebrating a long-gone ‘event’, let those around us have the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ as we give birth to him through acts of love and kindness, through our acts of solidarity and through our acts of resistance to oppression of every kind. As we look forward to this Christmas let Christ be born in our lives. We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.