Do we know its Christmas?

Heb le yn y llety, heb aelwyd na gwely, Nadolig fel hynny gadd hwn.
(“With nowhere to stay, with no fireside nor bed, such was his Christmas.”)

These familiar lines from a Welsh carol emphasise that Jesus was born in a cave that was used by the animals behind a busy inn at a dramatic and important period in the history of the people of Juda. The census was a new strategy by the Roman empire to record the population of the country in order to tax it more effectively. It was with an economic purpose in mind that they started the census which caused a lot of commotion at the time and which imposed additional burdens on the people for decades to come. We recall the duties of Matthew and Zaccheus, not to mention Caesar’s image on the coin that was handed to Jesus when he was asked to whom they should show loyalty. The Jews were living under oppression and had to pay the price. The census, therefore, was part of the process of putting shackles on the feet of the people, and it was at this very time that Jesus was born amongst them. The Song of Mary in Luke 1. 46 ‑ 55, records that it was to be this Jesus who would “scatter the proud in the conceit of their heart,” and who would “put down the mighty from their seat,” and would “exalt the humble.” In the midst of oppression Jesus brings freedom and offers self respect and hope. Let us not suppose that God is blind to oppression and indifferent to the tragic circumstances of life. During this Christmas let us remember the oppressed people of the Third World, especially where the people are being oppressed by the political policies of other countries. Oppression can present itself in a barbaric form with bullet and machete, but it can also present itself as economic oppression, compelling us to ask just who and where are the wolves of this world.

We have this image of Jesus being born into a situation of poverty and among homeless people. Now it is only fair to say that Joseph was not wealthy, but neither was he poor or homeless. For all that, we sense that there are deep resonances when we think about the stable of the animals and about the wretched surroundings. We become aware of the heavenly empathy to be found in the words of Luke, as if to underscore the fact that God identifies with the wretched of this world, with those who are homeless and with those who are oppressed. We know that there are homeless people in Cardiff just as in every other large city in Britain and in the rest of the world. A high proportion of the people in poor countries live in flavelas and sleep on floors of clay, without any comfort at all. As we prepare for our traditional celebrations, let us remember those who will not be looking forward to this festival. Let us remember too how Jesus identified with the oppressed and the homeless. Let the joy of the festival touch more of the people of our world this year than ever before. May God be glorified and may people of good will once again experience His peace.

:The Reverend Denzil John, Minister, Tabernacl Caerdydd, the Hayes, Cardiff. Written in Welsh.

Translation : Wales Famine Forum.

Published in The Green Dragon No. 1, December 1996.

Another article by the same author.