The first Christmas, when Christ came, was not a warm and loving experience. Friendship, gifts, gratitude, help for the poor are fruits of that Christmas, the consequence of conversion to Him. Rejection marks the celebrations of the Christian refugees in Mosul, those of India and China. Christmas has become a dangerous celebration to be suppressed as much as possible, even in Italy. But not even the persecution of Herod could prevent the fascination that Christ exercises on the hearts of so many.
Rome (AsiaNews) – A warm, friendly, warm atmosphere, full of gifts and gratitude, is what we all wish for at Christmas. It is also what we try to prepare with those near to us, our families, and some who are not so near: the poor, the sick, the elderly.
But we need to realize that this spontaneous feeling - not the honeyed and cloying one of those advertisements that abound in this period - is the result of what comes after Christmas, what happened after the birth of Jesus, as the consequence of our conversion to Him, the child God, who becomes fragile to come and live with us.
Because in reality the first Christmas, when Christ came, was not a warm and loving experience: the Gospel narrates the hard journey to Bethlehem, the lack of welcome, the birth among the animals of the stable ... Not to mention the persecution of Herod, the massacre of the innocents, the flight into Egypt, which made Jesus the first "Christian" migrant to escape the threat of massacre.
"He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him" (John 1,11): in his Gospel, this is how St. John summarizes the drama of that Christmas night and what followed, up to the crucifixion of the Child who became man.
Being rejected and trampled upon is part of the mystery of Christmas. It is Christmas for the refugees of Mosul, hunted down then driven from their homes, living in makeshift housing for three years now, still hoping to return to their city liberated from ISIS, but not from mines that the militiamen sowed in the ground . But their tenacity in remaining attached to their land, wishing - as the Patriarch of Baghdad wants - to rebuild not only their homes of the past, but the entire country in the coexistence of Christians, Muslims, Yazidis and Sabians is also part of Christmas.
The pages of AsiaNews are full of this Christmas mystery of rejection. The persecution, the violence, the forced silences inflicted on the small Christian communities of Asia have now become a daily occurrence and embrace very common aspects of social life. In mid-November we had the confirmation that the Chinese government has forbidden travel agencies to propose and make trips to the Vatican, the Museums and the Basilica of St. Peter, under threat of substantial fines, up to almost 40 thousand euros. Someone in China says that this is "because there are no diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Holy See", and so the Middle Empire has decided to boycott these destinations. Instead, I believe that the Chinese government is afraid of exposing its citizens to a vision of religion and the life of faith that their propaganda has always kept hidden. The tens of thousands of Chinese tourists arriving in Rome realize that the history of the Church is one of beauty, silence, prayer and that Christians are welcoming and orderly, not "criminals" or "subversives of public order". Many Chinese are intrigued and thanks to the nausea that they feel for the materialism in which they grew up, they begin to study Christianity.
The same thing happens in China, where the churches at Christmas are filled with non-Christian people, in search of a meaning of life that neither Party atheism nor the emptiness of consumerism can satisfy. But in this case too there is an attempt to reject the child who comes: security personnel are deployed in front of churches that let only those who are already Christian enter; Christmas parties are forbidden in universities as are gatherings to exchange Christmas greetings. Even the singing of Christmas carols is forbidden.
Many secularist prohibitions in Italy in public nativity scenes and songs have the same taste: they are a refusal linked to the fear that Christ will fascinate someone's heart. Christmas has become the most dangerous of celebrations, to be suppressed as much as possible. Even in tolerant India they mock Carol singers because they could convert someone!
On the first Christmas, Herod could not stop the story of God who came into the world. In the same way today neither persecution nor prohibitions can succeed in stopping the fascination for the Christian faith. And the baptisms that are celebrated on Christmas Eve in the Middle East, in China and Japan tell us that even if power manages to manipulate rejection, the hearts of many men and women are open up to welcome the God made man: "But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God"(John 1, 12).