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Christmas Message 2022

by mPeNDayu

Christmas Message 2022
” God still acts in our history”
Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on Him, the Spirit of Counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God.” (Isaiah 11:1-3)
Prophet Isaiah is one the most well-known prophets in the Bible for his prediction of the coming and birth of Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah. The Christian tradition always interpreted Isaiah’s words as prophecies about the Virgin birth (Is. 7:14), the nature of the promised Messiah (Is. 6-7) and the universal relevance of Jesus’ Messianic identity to both the Gentiles and the Jews. The prophecy of Isaiah 53 clearly states of his suffering in order to redeem the whole world of the sins. Isaiah introduces Jesus as the One who will bring righteousness, justice, and peace to the whole humanity but also ecological peace, when even the animals will live in harmony. Wolves, leopards, lions, and bears will no longer hurt lambs, goats, and calves. Humanity and nature will live in real peace. “The wolf shall lie with the kid and the calf and the lion and the fatlings together and a little child shall lead them.” (Is. 11:6). Didn’t we see the glory of the manger of the Babe in Bethlehem? Jesus was cared for by the warming breaths of these animals. This is the reason that the story of Christmas carries us from a world of polycrisis into a messianic age of love, joy, harmony, justice, and peace.
Even if the prophecies of Isaiah and the miraculous birth of Jesus puts us in atmosphere of joy, our world is in a big trouble. Pandemic, drought, floods, mega storms and wildfires, threats of a third world war – how rapidly we have become inured to the shocks. The Financial Times wrote an article with the headline: “Welcome to the world of the polycrisis”. The situation we are in is the most complex, desperate, and cross-cutting set of challenges in 40 years. With political, economic, and environmental shocks, it is little wonder that an unfamiliar term is gaining currency – the Polycrisis. If you read the news, there is no region or continent that are neither facing political, economic or climate crisis. Governments and politicians more than ever are publicly talking on food security in our high technical age.
In a meeting with one of the politicians, I told him that people in Jerusalem feel the double standards in world politics. As a Palestinian, I well understand the effort of Western countries exerted in Ukraine. However, if the same political efforts are exerted on the Palestinian Israeli conflict, the occupation would have been ended and justice would have been achieved by creating the long-waited two-state solution. Our people ask: how long should we suffer injustice until world powers will not only count their own country interests but will sincerely work for justice even for countries that are less powerful? Our Holy Land does not need more good speeches but justice.
Secretary General of United Nations has spoken in the same manner in his speech in COP15 on December 7, 2022. He also is tired of speeches and promises and wants serious actions to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. He gave a stark warning of declining biodiversity and if we do not take action today, in some years our world will be 3-4 degrees warmer than today. Mr. Guetterez is well aware with that: “Those least responsible for this destruction are always the first to feel the impact. But they are never the last.” He urges the UN countries that promises made must be the promises kept. It is time to form a peace pact with the nature. Imagine if half of the funds installed for the Mondial will be installed for climate change, won’t we all benefit of that?
At the time of writing the Book of Isaiah, people did not have a lot of reason to be hopeful as we are today. Their country had been occupied by Assyria. Their dreams of a united powerful Kingdom are crushed by oppression, killing and warring – they felt like a stump of a mighty tree cut off and worthless. Here comes Prophet Isaiah who paints a picture of hope. “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his root. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on Him. He draws people to hope in our living God. For the word will become flesh and live among us and we will see His glory, the Glory of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (Joh. 1:4). Isaiah prophesized the birth of the Messiah seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. This means that in a hopeless world, God acted in history and became flesh. Christmas reminds hopeless people that God never forgets us. As Christ was born in hopeless situation, His birth challenged empire and emperors and even the religious Institution, but his birth gave hope to the shepherds and the Magis and to normal people, that as long as there is a living God of justice, God will never allow injustice to have the last word.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has exhorted the Christmas in hopeless times: “We are to throw ourselves into all the polyphony of life. As we do so, we also need to throw ourselves in the arms of God. If we simply immerse ourselves in all the challenges of life without the presence and blessing of God, we may lose ourselves. If, on the other hand, we simply throw ourselves in the arms of God in order to escape the world with its responsibilities, enigmas and challenges, then we fool ourselves that we have gained a true form of spirituality.” The place where would world and spirituality meet is the place when Christian faces life empowered with the grace and love of God. We throw ourselves into the arms of God and participate in His suffering in the world.
This is what Christmas is about. Christ is born in order to participate in our suffering and that He may retain our humanity and dignity. Even if the world brings darkness and hopelessness, we Christians are to carry the light of hope in a polycrisis world. The Babe of Bethlehem exhorts us from his manger: Do not lose hope. Be beacons of hope here in midst of suffering and oppression. For God acts in history as God acted in Christmas and will sooner than we think grant us peace based on justice. As the Angels of Bethlehem sang:
“Glory to God in the Highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors.” (Luke 2:14)
I wish you all A Merry Christmas and A Blessed New Year 2023 full of peace and justice.

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