The Real Christmas Story

This Christmas, times continue to be hard for many. And that — amid all the presents, parties and holiday gaiety — is the real story of this mass we celebrate on the birth of Christ.

As I’ve reminded throughout the years, the real story isn’t about a holiday; it is about a holy day. It’s about two people summoned from their home and forced to travel to register so the Roman occupiers could count them. The couple had no place to stay. One brief look, and the innkeeper announced there was no room at the inn. Their baby was born in the cold, in a working barn, set in a rough manger on a straw floor.

Just as now, those weren’t normal times. Roman occupation was harsh and oppressive. A great expectation arose among the poor and the oppressed. Prophets predicted that a mighty messiah would come — a king of kings — to free the oppressed. They expected a powerful warrior able to free his people with the force of the sword.

Wise men from the East saw a bright star in the sky and knew that the Messiah had come. They traveled far seeking to worship the new king. They met with Herod in Jerusalem on the way, telling him of their mission. Herod was disturbed and asked the Magi to report to him when they found the child. The Magi found the child and worshipped him. Warned in a dream, however, they avoided Herod and returned another way. Furious, Herod ordered the execution of all children 2 and under in Bethlehem. But an angel had warned the couple, and they fled to Egypt, immigrants without papers.

Why was the mighty Herod so fearful? The prophet Isaiah had predicted that a child would be born and he would “preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives.” And the gospel of Luke tells us, as a young man Jesus read from Isaiah and embraced his charge to “preach good news to the poor.”

The birth of the Messiah foretold a transformation that rightly threatened the Roman governors, the moneychangers, the elites of the time. Everyone expected a mighty soldier. But the Messenger never lifted a sword or carried a shield, held an office or amassed a fortune, yet his gospel transformed the world. He taught us the power of love and hope and charity.

Christmas should be a time when we hear this message. It is a time to take notice of the poor and the oppressed.

Christmas 2010 saw the United States fighting two wars on the other side of the world. The U.S. faced unemployment, homelessness, hunger — and many Americans voiced doubts about our most cherished institutions.

This year, President Obama has ended the war in Iraq, and our service members are at long last returning home. Occupy Wall Street has opened the eyes of millions to the excesses of Wall Street. And Americans stood together to protect basic worker rights in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere.

We do have many blessings, and in small ways, some of us might be better off than last year. Yet, a great many stockings still hang empty this year. Christmas 2011 shows us there is still much to do. We have 49 million Americans in poverty, nearly one in two is low income or below. About 17 million children go hungry. Nearly 50 million have no health insurance. Over 24 million are in need of full-time work. Record numbers are in jail. The Army Times reports 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

This Christmas, let everyone take a moment for the real story. Let us take stock of how we treat the young in the dawn of life, the poor in the pit of life, the elderly in the dusk of life. The real gift wasn’t the presents that the Wise Men brought, the real gift was the child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.


More articles by:
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South