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All I want for Christmas is...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tomorrow, Christians celebrate the religious festival of Christmas, the symbolic birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. Many believe Jesus was an expression of God in human form (some Hindus see him as an avatar)—an enlightened being who preached and acted from love, wisdom and spiritual compassion. 

According to the Christian holy book, the Bible, Jesus came here to serve people, save the lost among them, and to teach better ways of being, despite the knowledge that this mission would end in his own death. So the true meaning of Christmas, for traditional Christian believers, is the celebration of a life’s example of love, giving, and self-sacrifice.

The Bible expresses the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. …Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. … So now faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (Bible, English Standard Version)

Although Christmas celebrates the idea of selfless love, the festival has come to mean many different things even within the Christian community. The T&T Guardian asked five Christian priests of varied denominations: What is your Christmas wish for T&T? Here’s what they said.

The power of love

Rev Liselle Roberts from the Moravian Church of Laventille said her Christmas wish is for us to rediscover and practice the power of love in our lives. 

She said: “A lot of people say they don’t feel Christmassy, or they don’t feel the Christmas mood, that the season is just for children. It is because we’ve simplified Christmas down to just toys and gifts. For me, Christmas is every day. Christ died for us, and we should celebrate that every day. We should love each other as we love ourselves. First love God, then each other. 

“How can we extend love to our fellow man? Sometimes we try to over-think stuff, but it’s easy to show love. For instance, I grew up in Tobago, and there we know the people in our communities; we’d often go next door to ‘beg for salt’ from our neighbour (a Tobago saying); we say good morning to people; we look out for the neighbour. But these days, too many people grow up in communities where we don’t even know who our neighbours are. And we forget to share. It does not matter what religion you are—whether Christian, Hindu, Muslim or other—love crosses barriers, and that is what can bring us together. So that is my wish: that we look out for each other, and show that we care genuinely about each other.”

Empathy, compassion, 

common sense

Roman Catholic Father Harold Imamshah works in three churches—the St Anthony’s RC Church in Petit Valley, the Church of the Nativity in Crystal Stream, and the St Augustine RC Church, Cameron. For Fr Imamshah, empathy and helping the less fortunate are important: 

“My Christmas wish would be that we all would see in the eyes of the needy, the addicted, the neglected, and the forgotten, the Christ child begging for our attention and our love,” he said.

Presbyterian Rev Clifford Rawlins, Minister of the Diego Martin United Church (the only fully ecumenical congregation in T&T), wishes for something very simple: common sense.

“I wish for common sense to regain its place among us; that people would be more respectful, patient and understanding, and to think and reason before we speak and act. I pray for the spirit of kindness which is recognised and blessed by humans, animals, the universe, and by God, for to be human is to be kind; as the Christmas epistle reading from Titus 3 says, “The kindness of God our Saviour dawned upon the world in the coming of his Son Jesus Christ.”

Peace & harmony

Rev Father Ashley Mungal from the All Saints Anglican Church at Queen’s Park West, Port-of-Spain, wishes for a more peaceful, harmonious country. He said: “I wish for love and cooperation among all people, irrespective of ethnicity or belief systems. My Christmas wish is for respect for all people and their right to exist within this common space. 

“The message of the Holy Nativity is a gift of hope to everyone, especially the lowly, the marginalised, the poor and the insignificant,” he added. “These seeds of hope should persuade us to rid ourselves of fundamentalism to create a better community for humanity.”

Meanwhile, Rev Mungal’s colleague, Canon Colin Sampson, who is Canon Missioner of the Anglican Church and former Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, contributed: “There are numerous faith-based organisations. Many things within their beliefs may divide us, but there are more things that unite us. My vision for Christmas is that we concentrate on where we are united and work together from there. And that we respect each other’s differences. 

“There are far more reasons to embrace one another in brotherly and sisterly love, than there are reasons to hate one another. We are all one in the natal ward, and we are all one in the grave. Why should there be hatred in between? We are all heading to either one of two eternal places; why not head to the one where we will be in peace, love, and harmony? Let’s start from here,” he said.


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