TODAY, December 25, is celebrated throughout the Christendom as the birthday of Jesus. In this article I would like to suggest that the birthday of Jesus is also in essence the birthday of “Love” for Jesus embodies this fundamental characteristic of love. Christians believe that God is Love and that Jesus is the Son of God and He Himself is God. So, Jesus as God is also Love, and thus the birthday of Jesus is the birthday of Love itself.
Birthday is the anniversary of the day a person is born, which comes once a year. In the records of formal birthday celebrations, as mentioned in the Bible, Pharaoh was the first in the history who celebrated his birthday for all his servants with much festivity (Genesis 40:20). In the Gospel it is also mentioned that King Herod Antipas celebrated his birthday for the Galilean noblemen and army generals by holding a great feast (Mark 6:21). Although there are differences of opinion among historians of the actual date of Jesus' birth, the Church at Rome started observing the “birthday of Christ” on December 25 since 336 AD.
The meaning of love is so vast and varied. William Shakespeare in his book A Midsummer Night's Dream speaks about love: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.” According to Bertrand Russell: “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness” (The Conquest of Happiness). Gospel writer John looks at love as being something coming from God and whoever loves is born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7). According to St. Paul, love encompasses numerous attributes. In his letter to the Corinthians, he writes: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; 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. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7).
Christians believe that God's love knows no bounds. Although not always mentioning directly that God is love, there are many illustrations of God's love for His people both in the Old and New Testament texts. For instance, God says to prophet Jeremiah: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), and to the Israelites “..., the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). There are some texts in the New Testament that directly talk about God being love Himself: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is Love” (1 John 4:8), “... God is Love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4: 16), and so on and so forth.
Although people of other faiths may differ with this notion, but in Christian religion, it is believed that Jesus is the Son of God, and He is also God. Again, there are scripture verses that corroborate this concept. In the book of Prophet Isaiah (A book of the Old Testament written 712 BC), it is written: “... Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name 'Emmanuel' – God with us” (Isaiah 7:14: Mt 1:23). In the Gospel of John, it is written: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The Gospel of Luke says: “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, 'A great prophet has arisen among us!' and 'God has visited his people!”' (Luke 7:16).
Thus, it is well established for the Christians that God is Love and that Jesus is the Son of God and He Himself is God. Thus, it can also be said that Jesus is Love as God is Love.
Christmas is the birthday of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, Himself God, who is love. Therefore, Christmas is the birthday of Love. What does Jesus, God, Love, want from us on his birthday? I am sure He wants His nature of “love” be a reality that transcends all limitations and shortcomings of the hearts of all people of our country and of our world. At this Christmas, it is even more specially deserved that all our leaders of the country come to comprehend the love of God to be patient, kind, truthful, bearing, believing, hoping, enduring, and not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice at wrongdoing (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7). This Love of Jesus summons, not only the leaders, but also peoples of all walks of life, to embrace its true quintessence at all times of life despite all the contradictory realities that they face in personal, family, social, political, economic, national and international spheres. Let this Christmas be a real birthday of LOVE and that it becomes a daily living of patience, kindness, truth, bearing, believing, hoping, enduring; and not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not insisting its own way, not irritable or resentful, not rejoice at wrongdoings.
The writer is the Provincial Superior of the Brothers of Holy Cross in Bangladesh.