For the reflection on the festive night of Christmas Eve I propose to you an inspiration from Baruch Spinoza, philosopher, especially the attitude that may accompany us as we stand before the crib of the baby of Bethlehem. But what does a philosopher, you may wonder, have to do with this? Well, if you pose such a question, then, it’s an extra reason for you to pay attention to him.
Bible readings Isaiah 9: 1–3, 5–6 Psalm 96: 1–2, 2–3, 11–12, 13 Titus 2: 11–14 Luke 2: 1–14
Christmas attitude from a philosopher
Who’s this philosopher who occupies a place in our reflection for Christmas Eve? Baruch Spinoza is a Jewish-Dutch philosopher who lived in the 17th century. I esteem that his self-discipline as philosopher may nourish our celebration of the sacred mystery of the incarnation. It’s a kind of rule of life:
“I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.”
A thinker is often confronted with varied, different and even opposed views of other thinkers. In trying to hold onto one’s own views there’s a risk of despising, mocking and downgrading those who think or act differently. Indeed, don’t we sometimes ridicule ideas or persons simply because of our ignorance? Aware of such danger, the philosopher said to himself: Spinoza, don’t get carried away by anger, contempt or mockery for what you hear or see, no matter how strange they may appear to you; keep your heard cool and seek only one thing -to understand. Thank you, Spinoza, your wisdom can inspire us to welcome the poor child of Bethlehem with an open heart.
Really, is he the one we’ve been awaiting?
It happens sometimes that we invest a lot of energy preparing for something but only to be disappointed with the outcome, simply because things turn out different from what we expected. In fact, Jesus was rejected by some religious leaders especially that he didn’t conform to the idea of the messiah they waited for. As a result, they scorned him, without seeking to know him.
Indeed, by the announce of angel Gabriel, we wait for the birth of the Son of God, and descendant of the famous king, David. Obviously, don’t we expect to see the luxury and the honour surrounding his coming? Deception! Before us is not a powerful messiah but a fragile baby, born in precarious conditions. There are no servants of the royal palace to serve him and no sweet aromas where he is lying; his first and closest neighbours are animals, with all the repugnant smells of their shed. And if people waited for a powerful messiah who would drive out oppressors; soon he himself would be fleeing to seek refuge in a foreign land. It’s hard to believe he is the one, perhaps, we would rather want to see someone else.
Meet to understand
Spinoza is whispering to you: keep your cool; no contempt. Draw close and meet this apparently poor, fragile child. Seek to know and to understand him -it may make you not only to drop your prejudices, but you may also discover the power of love behind his fragility. We can see already how the attitude towards the child makes a lot of difference among the persons in the scene of his birth.
While Herod looks at this child with filters of power and the high priests trying to assess things in terms of their knowledge; here’s what the shepherds say, a bit like the inspiration of Spinoza; “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us” (Lk 2:15). And you, are you ready to put yourself on the road to meet this Child as he is?
The vulnerable child today
Today the word “immigrant” dominates airwaves and evokes mixed feelings, thoughts and actions. While they are many well-meaning persons and organisations that help these persons, there are also those to whom “immigrant” simply means nuisance, hence, to fight by all means. Consequently, for such people, it’s simply impossible to realise that behind “immigrants” there are human persons worthy meeting and understanding.
This is not just about immigrants, it may be the case also in different relationships. There may be persons whom we label as special, especially that they represent, for us, nothing but everything annoying.
At Christmas, before the baby Jesus, a son of God in poverty; am I not inspired to make an effort to meet these other persons and to know them better, no matter the feeling that the first sight evokes in me?
Heaven and earth have embraced
At Christmas, the incarnation mystery, we celebrate a striking encounter where God besides taking the human nature goes on to identify himself with the lowly and the poor. And so, we may ask for the grace to remain sober and to make an effort to meet other persons with an open heart.
Thank you, Lord, for coming to meet me, as I’m, at his Christmas; give me the grace to meet others with the same attitude -with openness and respect.
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