The Adoration of Magi in Hong Kong
Hong Kong people spend one sixth of our time celebrating Christmas - from early November till end of December each year, shopping malls put up Christmas decorations, coffee shops make the seasonal gingerbread latte and serve them in red festive cups, the walls of skyscrapers are decorated by colorful Christmas lights, stores looping the happy and familiar Christmas tunes. For many it's a time for exciting overseas vacation, feasts and wine, parties, and shopping for Christmas gifts. We take this opportunity to indulge ourselves, to soak in the happiness induced by commercial strategies.
We rarely think about what actually happened on the first Christmas two thousands years ago - a woman, heavily pregnant, traveled on a donkey for days because of an order for census which require everyone to return to their hometown (she was probably thinking I don't care about the stupid census! I just want to stay home. lie down, take a bath and prepare for the arrival of my baby). One night in this harsh journey, she and her husband couldn't find a place to stay because everywhere was full so they had to spend the night at a noisy, dirty and smelly manger with a bunch of animals. She must have been exhausted from the traveling, but in this moment she went into labor, and without any help except from an inexperienced young husband, she gave birth to her firstborn, a baby boy.
I recently became a father and labor was messy enough in a clean sterilized hospital assisted by a team of experienced doctor and nurses. It is hard to imagine that taking place in a dark, smelly and dirty manger, with animals nearby. No body would like to put themselves in such a condition. Yet it is in this humble mess that Jesus was born, as fragile and helpless as all of human babies. The stark contrast made me rethink the way we celebrate Christmas.
What would happen if Jesus were to be born in Hong Kong today?
Mary and Joseph would probably have to stay at a cheap motel with one of those 純粹租房 ("purely room renting") signs on the fifth floor of a rundown building with no lift in Shum Shui Po.
Shum Shui Po is one of the poorest districts in Hong Kong. It is also the area where new immigrants, ethic minorities, low income families and the working poor live. They live in sub divided flats with poor living condition. Many of these "flats" can only fit in a bed and the occupants have to put all their possessions on that bed. It is the equivalent of the manger in Hong Kong, no one would like to find themselves in that situation.
The painting depict the scene where the shepherds and the magi visited baby Jesus. The magi, shepherds, Jesus' parents Joseph and Mary all looking at this little miracle of life. It is a small quiet moment, not something grand like the Christmas decorations in the mall. Light and peace emanated from baby Jesus. I think this is the true meaning of Christmas- it is about staying together, about love. After all, what else can bring us hope in the midst of a mess?
Hong Kong people has been going through a tough period - we have the most expensive housing in the world, the longest working hour, and our political tension is growing. In this mess, our way out is not to escape but to love, starting from the person near you.
So in this Christmas, why not spend some time with the people you love and care, listen to the story of a stranger on the street, share the things you have extra, visit someone without a family, make present for the people who didn't treat you well, make surprise for a neighbor you hardly have contact, write a message to reconcile with a person whom you have once misunderstood each other...
Lets celebrate differently this Christmas!