We celebrate the birth of Jesus with much excitement, perhaps even more enthusiastic, as we think of the current journey of our people in the Philippines.
The first major message of the Christmas story is “Peace on Earth!” Why? Because the socio-historical context of the Christmas story was unpeace:
- Roman Imperialism dictated that people should register in their home towns for the purpose of taxation and military statistics. That Jesus was born in a manger was a result of human injustice, redeemed in the Christmas story by the higher purposes of God.
- The socio-political context of Jesus’ birth includes the oppressive Roman Empire manipulating the puppet kingdom of the corrupt Herodian Dynasty in collaboration with the religious institutions and other power holders using patronage politics. The Wise Men used their wisdom to avoid the tricky and deadly diplomatic requirement of King Herod against the Baby Jesus. How do we use wisdom to advocate justice and peace in our own context? The people who have been victims of unjust actions of patronage politicians and oligarchs in the Philippines would find a voice in the original Christmas story.
- The story of Jesus’ birth includes the mass murder of babies as Herod’s death squads hunted the Baby Jesus. Let’s pause in silence to remember those children. Let’s also quiet our hearts to think about the many children in the most vulnerable parts of the world dying of preventable diseases, and the many children who are suffering, and many who died because of the terrorism of US-led Western Powers using technologically-sophisticated warplanes, smart bombs, and state-financed mercenary troops in Iraq, Libya, Syria for the purpose of regime change. Let’s also think of the 6000+ who were killed in this ‘War On Drugs’ in the Philippines since 01 July 2016. How do we teach our children and family members to have the heart of Jesus for those families whose loved-ones were unjustly killed? How do we, Christian leaders, teach those who come to church this Christmas to pray for justice as we pray for joy and peace in this world?
- The Baby Jesus and his parents were actually Jewish-Palestinian refugees, running for their lives from Palestine to Egypt. How many families in the world right now are fleeing for their lives? How many Palestinian families right now are being unjustly pushed out of their homes by the modern State of Israel? How many families right now have been pushed out of their homes because of war in various remote villages in Mindanao? How many families are pushed out of their homes in Mindanao because of exploitative and oppressive mining operations?
The celebration of Christmas must be a celebration of the fact that God is with us — Emmanu-El. This brings hope and peace to the people oppressed by a system of unpeace.
If this is the kind of celebration we’re celebrating, then we can really say that our Christmas celebration is In-God (en Theos) — thus, en-Theos-siastic, or enthusiastic!
May we experience the just and liberating Peace that Jesus brings. May your Christmas celebration be really enthusiastic!
Do not be dismayed
by the brokenness of the world.
All things break.
All things can be mended.
Not with time,
as they say,
but with intention.
The broken world awaits in darkness
for the light
that is you.
~ L. R. Knost