Jesus Christ's birth was meant to make us aware of social sins


Silhouettes of family and people at the Cross of Jesus Christ. [Getty Images]

Why did God have to send his Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, to a carpenter named Joseph, in a manger, in a city where the poor like Mary and Joseph could not afford a decent hospital for the child to be delivered? Why would the incarnation happen to the lowly in the most unsuspecting circumstances?

Next week, on Monday 25, the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. No doubt, it is the most globally well-known Christian faith practice even in places where Christianity is not rooted or appreciated. Christmas is normally associated with festivities. Governments, corporate organisations and private offices close to mark the day with family, friends and communities.

In the famous John 3: 16 we read that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” People had turned their back on Yahweh. They pronounced His name for convenience. They acted as if they worshipped Yahweh but in fact, they had turned the temple into a social hall where they could even trade.

God wasn’t happy. He had to come down among people to live like them, to show them the way back to what He had intended for them from the beginning of creation.

Often, we forget this side of Christmas that the birth of Jesus Christ was occasioned by the normalisation of wickedness in society. The whole mission of the birth was “redemption” that is, a salvific mission. God desired that since people had abandoned the way of righteousness and fallen into sin, he would send His Son to come and redeem them.

Paradoxically, the fulfilment of this mission happens on the cross where Jesus is crucified. He dies on the cross. But it is His resurrection that brings back to life the power of faith in God. It is from the resurrection that Christmas becomes meaningful and contextualised to human salvation.  

The birth of Jesus Christ was never about festivities, important as they are, but about society recognising its shortness of the glory of God. For God, it was about redeeming society from social sin.

The concept of “social sin” refers to failures committed by a group, community or the larger society through systemic social weakness such as compromised social institutions that are tolerated even when they are harmful to the common good.

In his time, Jesus Christ fought the tax collectors because they were insensitive to the plight of the poor. Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) was moved to repentance when he encountered Jesus. He promised to repay four times anyone he had cheated, plainly saying anyone he had “overtaxed” since he was a chief tax collector with the power to decide how much tax each household should pay.

There are many other incidents in the Gospels in which Jesus confronts people who exploit the poor. He rebuked the Pharisees for their outward show of righteousness while inwardly they are filled with hypocrisy and wickedness. He condemned the Pharisees for emphasising external rituals and appearances while neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Christmas is indeed a call for us to be aware of our social sins. What kind of mediocrity are we putting up with whose result is to undermine the dignity of fellow human beings? With cartels driving the economy in many countries, political leadership using worship places to justify cruelty, children being exposed to extreme relativism in values and principles of life and determined efforts to wipe out faith from political processes, Christmas cannot symbolise more. It is the perfect time to call ourselves to order.

Jesus strongly advocated for a just society where the marginalised, condemned and downtrodden experience the love of God. Think of the adulterous woman who would be stoned to death had Jesus not questioned the accusers of their false sense of self-righteousness. See how God loves us immensely.

In particular, Christmas is a moment to remember and support poor parents who cannot access safe maternity services. Further, we have to resolve to support disadvantaged children from the moment of birth.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication