“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
Christmas is a message of hope, a call for renewal, a driving force for change, and the supreme example of the power of empathy, solidarity and compassion, especially with the marginalized, downtrodden, and both the afflicted and inflicted.
This year’s unfortunate events, thus make this the best and most appropriate time to celebrate Christmas. We have been besieged by COVID-19, and have suffered economic strangulation, political upheaval, social disconnect, moral deterioration, and all kinds of violence at every corner. But, still the baby is born, and still the baby brings us hope-realized.
2000 years ago, much like today, historic Palestine was under occupation. In that time it was the Roman Occupation. King Herod the Great, despite being well known for his great building projects, was even more well-known for his arbitrary, ruthless and terrible inhumanity. He was blinded by fear, “which towards the end of his rule became sheer paranoia”; Herod, orders the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Indeed, Herod was afraid to lose his Kingdom. Furthermore, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more”. (Jeremiah 31:15 NIV). After Herod’s death, the Kingdom was divided into three parts (Judea, Samaria and Galilee) and among his sons Archelaus, Antipas and Philip. What life could be had with such tragedy and division, especially for a little baby?
Yet, the birth of our lord the savior takes place still, in a humble cave. The angels appear to the Holy Family, asking them to flee to Egypt, fearing King Herod’s reprisal and ruthlessness. The family takes its leave under cover of night, escaping the tragedy of Bethlehem’s children. Nevertheless, the Holy family returns, practicing their right of return. Jesus continues his message and implores us to heed his calls: “He who hath ears, let him here”
However, it seems history remain deaf to the cries of past injustices, as it repeats itself, simply adding new actors: the new Herod and the new vassals; Harod still acts destructively to protect its power and economy, as the Historic land continues to be divided to four parts: Jerusalem, which is separated from the West Bank, Gaza, and the Galilee. And these divisions hold further fragmentation within their pieces as areas are segregated and divided, as settlements and military bases continue to grow and consume more geography.
Herod seems to have grown over the past 2000 years. And in his shadow grows war, continued displacement and deportation, growing hunger and insecurity, sorrow, and division. A system of injustice continues to root itself in our reality, and we are taught to seek forgiveness, rather than permission. Thus, this Christmas season we seek God and we ask:
- Our lord, are You aware that since the year 2000, approximately 13000 Palestinian Children have been imprisoned, detained and prosecuted by Israel’s Occupation Forces? Have you comforted the 155 Palestinian Children that have been killed since 2013.
- Do you know that your compatriots/ relatives in Bethlehem have not been working since March, 5th, 2020? Have you suffered with them as their stomachs, similarly to their pockets, grow ever more empty?
- Have you felt the parent’s tears wet their cheeks, as they hear their children’s hopes for a Santa Clause that they cannot bring this year?
- Have you heard our troubled and anxious hearts as COVID continues to instill fear and has reintroduced itself through a more contagious strain?
- Will you help us warm the Baby Jesus in the cold Grotto, that is now devoid of our brothers and sisters from across the world?
We cast these questions and work to hold and maintain our hope, as we wait for God’s wisdom to be made apparent. We choose to maintain our hope and hold firm to faith, that just like the Holy family found a lowly manager, then sought refuge in Egypt, and then were able to practice the right of return, that indeed God is with us still and watching over us. For in God placed is our faith, and with God grows our hope, for faith and hope are two faces of the same value, and both are forms of non-violent struggle. And it is this nonviolent struggle of Christmas which provides renewal as spirituality is vivaciously awakened. Thus our spirit offers this prayer:
Please Child, Baby Jesus, ignite our spiritual revolution, helping us find ourselves rooted in Agape, nurture the loving spirit in which you created us, and help us strengthen our resolve, so that we may continue on this less-travelled road, toward an inclusive and restorative justice.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Once again, we intentionally welcome the Child and Christ into our hearts, lives, homes, communities, and nations. And in this time we wonder what part we will play in spreading Agape and peace throughout this universe. Are we going to be the wise stewards, who are well prepared with anticipation for Christ’s coming? Shall our hope be renewed, justice retrieved, and our hearts transformed for peace to be granted? Will we heed Martin Luther King Jr. words, and strive to love? And, finally, will we put our faith to work and help realize hope, recognizing and becoming aware of our own complicity with our past histories, so that we may reconcile our present cycles of violence, to move towards a just-filled and inclusive future?
We hope so. And with this hope we act intentionally, whether through prayer, work, or conversation. And we raise our voices, despite prolonged occupation, despite COVID, and despite all the adversity that our lives offer and we proclaim that Christ is born.
And to this new-born Christ, we ask:
Benevolent Christ, send your blessing to heal all whom COVID -19 has afflicted. Heal and give comfort to those who have faced the various illnesses of our world. Lord, we beseech you to release the imprisoned, to relieve all who have been traumatized and plagued by fear and paranoia, to provide shelter to the homeless, and to help us enhance the pursuit of peace everywhere, whether within the family, between families, communities, regions, and nations.
Eternal creator, share your wisdom and touch the hearts of those with influence and key positions of leadership in our World, anoint our religious leaders and political cadres to serve their communities to the best of their abilities and humbly. Unite our global community and help us provide what is needed to all people, from all their different walks of life. Help us liberate each other from all our forms of oppression, colonization, discrimination, and racism.
With your benevolent blessings, may we continue to be your instruments of peace, locally, regionally and internationally; “may your justice roll down like mighty waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream”. Help us, our savior, to be the force that implements your social gospel, and remind us of your words: “whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters you are doing it for me”. Oh lord, let peace with Justice, be your gift on Christmas eve and for the year 2021. May it be a peace that quenches the thirsty, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, heals the inflicted, and calms the troubled, and may we always help sustain it! Thank you, God!
14“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!” Luke 2:14
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!