A Christmas Tale: Jose’s Sandals is one of the novels written by the world famous novelist Paulo Coelho. It is the story of a young Brazilian boy who lives with his miserly aunt after losing his parents at the age of 7. It was the Christmas eve and all the children were going for the Mass dressed in all their fine clothes. Only Jose was in tattered clothes and the children made fun of Jose of his clothes. Jose was very distressed by all this and started to cry. It is then he noticed another boy who was in the same state as he was in but that boy didn’t have any sandals also. He felt bad for the boy and took one of his sandals and gave it to that boy.
As expected he got a good thrashing from his aunt for giving away one of his sandals. Soon the news spread across the village. The parish priest found Infant Jesus in the Church compound wearing the one sandal gifted by Jose.
The story by the great novelist has a strong message for its readers. Jesus on that Christmas day chose to appear in the sandals given by Jose, the poorest of the poorest. There were so many children dressed in their fineries and Jose was a laughing stock for them but Jesus chose to accept the gift of Jose.
It is said that a true incident like the one mentioned in the book by Paulo took place in 333 AD in Italy. It is the story of a soldier by name Martin. He was walking on a winter cold night and he came across a beggar sitting there shivering due to the cold. Martin did not hesitate to remove his coat and give it to the beggar.
That night Martin dreamt of Jesus sitting in the heaven with the coat. The response Jesus gave to the question when asked about the coat was, “This coat is given to me by my favorite Martin.” Jesus towards the end said that what so ever you do the least of my brothers, you do unto me. It is the same Jesus who appeared with St Martin’ coat who has been described in the story of Paulo.
Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem poorer than the poor children of the neighborhood neglected by everyone. Jesus likes to take the form of a beggar, the poor and people who have nothing in this world. He compares the hunger of a poor to his own hunger (Mathew 25:35). He is making that hunger and thirst as his own. He came as the carpenter of Nazareth and that is why not many could not be recognizing him as the son of God.
The rich in the olden days were denoted by the number of land and animals they owned. The wealth was measured only in these terms and nothing beyond. We must realize one thing that God will never come as the rich and even if he comes then it will be under special circumstances.
Douglas Hyde the editor of the magazine Daily Worker was an atheist. After he came back to faith he wrote a famous book, ‘I Believe’. One Christmas night Douglas went to the church in his new coat and hat and there he saw a poor man shivering in the cold. He took him home and dressed him in his best clothes and invited him to share in the dinner. Douglas goes on to say that Christmas becomes truly meaningful when we are able to see Jesus in the poor.
It is always the ordinary people that the Lord upholds. When the prophets preached about the savior of Israel our forefathers did not expect him to be born in a poor family. Everyone thought that the person preached by David and his descendant would be a king. “The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet (Psalm 110:1).” So no one expected him to be a carpenter’s son and from an ordinary family. He valued the poor and the ordinary more than anyone else. The shepherds were very special guests indeed to witness Jesus’ birth.
In every Christmas we are the special guests invited to take part in the celebrations. So let this Christmas be a celebration of mercy.
Fr. Joseph Nechikatt