Photo courtesy Modern Magazine
We keep Christmas this year amidst manifestoes, dreams and visions.
Politicians want power; they resort to lofty manifestoes. People long for sincere governance and bread at affordable prices; they persist in dreaming dreams. Prophets resent deceit; they dare to see visions. Some scheme, most dream and others see visions; this is the gist of our political realities.
The birth of the Christ child
The birth of Christ occurred amidst conflicting agendas.
More than enough was not enough for the greedy Roman Empire. This is a disease that Buddhism calls tanha; the endless craving for power, possession and pleasure. Tanha is also bondage. The empire was not free to dream dreams and see visions. Instead its’ task was to fleece the people by obstructing dreams and visions.
The people faced increasing hardship. They had had enough. Yet most were unable to dream. They were afflicted with another disease; hopelessness. They had given up on justice and freedom.
Interpreters of religious truth had distorted their priceless legacy. Accessibility to the halls of power and institutional security were more rewarding than their noble mandate to contest deceit and relieve human hardship. They embraced those who fleeced and harassed the poor and turned their back on the very poor who fed them.
But another agenda was unfolding. Joseph the worker-carpenter laboured hard and clean and managed with a little. He was a man of conscience. He slept well and was able to dream. His dreams are about human security. The first urges him to protect Mary even though the child she carried was not his own. He stands with her. Together they deliver and nurture the Christ child.
Another dream warns him that the baby is in danger. He reads the contemporary political happenings accurately. Herod is ruthless and has no ethical boundaries. The land of their birth is unsafe. The family become refugees to protect the Christ child.
Mary, the village girl sees visions. She is a prophet. Prophets are not men only. Her visions are about change. The first vision calls her to a daunting assignment. There will be risk, misunderstanding and criticism. Refusal is the easy way out. And yet she senses she can make a difference. Her response is a cautious but courageous “yes”; she will carry the Christ child.
Her second vision grows from the first. God will honour her “yes” and bring change. The baby she carries will grow to reverse the greed and deceit of this and all empires. The haughty-mighty will be brought down and God’s little people, humiliated and deprived, will be filled with good things. Mary breaks out into song. She is privileged to be part of this change which dawns with the Christ child.
Dreams and visions of human security and social change are fundamental to the well-being of all nations.
Today human security is known to grow around a cluster of freedoms. These include freedom from hunger, displacement and unlawful eviction, freedom from religious intolerance and ethnic humiliation, freedom from ignorance and censorship, freedom from corruption and deceit, freedom from sexual violence and gender discrimination, freedom from political intimidation and economic exploitation and freedom from pollution and global warming.
Where human security is lacking, distorted or compromised, the people and those who aspire to govern are obliged to bring change.
Those who aspire to govern must remember they derive authority from the people. Their mandate is to further the good of the people and not their own interests. They are also to be reminded that people are not commodities; they are a nation’s most valuable resource. Consequently the role of governance is to enable the peoples’ potential to flourish for the common good and step aside. This is why styles of domineering and patronising governance must be contested. They steal the sovereignty of the people.
Christmas reminds us that the dreams and visions of humans are to probe manifestoes and engage with governance, continuously. It is in this interaction that we rediscover our national conscience and keep hope alive.
With Peace and Blessings to all,
Bishop Duleep de Chickera