It’s difficult to say “Merry Christmas” when deep inside we’re crying as we watch our fellow human beings suffer because of unjust political policies and natural disasters happening around us. But we still shout, with much conviction, that in the midst of these painful realities, God is with us. Immanu El! The Creator chose to visit us as a human being. The Eternal One chose to dwell with us as a mortal. This is Hope Incarnate!
We’re confused with the behavior of many of our American Christian friends who merrily celebrate the Christmas Story while supporting the unjust and oppressive policies of their government. How could these personal Christian friends sing ‘Joy to the World’ and send us ‘Peace on Earth’ greetings while watching, with passionate approval, the heart-rending pictures of thousands of refugees at the border of the United States and Mexico? The images speak of inhumanity of those in power against the less powerful common people who are avoiding the brutal drug-related violence and political persecution.
We’re angry and sad as we continue to stand in solidarity with our Palestinian sisters and brothers whose dignity and rights as human beings are being trampled even as they seek to celebrate Christmas.
We’re crying as we pray for those affected by the tsunami in Indonesia. As we write this Christmas message, at least 373 people were killed; 1,459 people were injured; and, more than 600 homes, 60 shops and 420 vessels were damaged when the tsunami struck.
We cry with the families of the 27,000 people who have been killed in the Philippine War on Drugs between July 2016 and November 2018. The official police report says 5,050. But the Commission on Human Rights says 27,000.
Yet in our community, we intentionally look at all these sad realities through the lenses of Faith, Hope, and Love. These perspectives are based on our personal experiences of transformation since we started following Jesus individually and since we have voluntarily bonded together as a community, seeking to live in accordance with the character of this person Jesus, who personify what it really means to be a true human being.
That the Creator visited this planet and dwelt with humans as a human being is Good News. That the Creator chose to experience human suffering and demonstrated how to be truly human in the midst of human suffering is Hope! The Gospel of St. Luke (2:52) says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Jesus went through a process of maturation as a human being — intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. He went through the harsh realities of being a member of a subdued nation. The Jewish people were oppressed and harrased by the Roman Empire during his time.
- The baby Jesus was born as a Jewish child, most probably the subject of gossips in a small town because he was conceived by a young woman before marriage;
- The folks from the East — referred to as ‘Three Kings’ in Christian narrative — who visited him and his family most probably were Arabs;
- His family escaped an insecure, bad-mouthed, lying, self-centered political leader who waged a war — a cowardly act — against young, unarmed, helpless children;
- He and his family became a trans-continental refugee — from Palestine, west of the Asian continent; to Egypt, north of the African continent;
- He earned his living as a carpenter;
- He incarnated Love and Peace and built a community marked by Love;
- He incarnated Unconditional Love to the point of offering his life for others;
- He was executed by the Empire, in collaboration with the religious and political power-players of his own nation, because he proposed an Alternative Reality that debunked the myth of the Empire;
- By the power of the Creator’s Spirit, he transcended death to show that the final reality is Life;
- He commissioned his followers or disciples to make more followers or disciples of the Great Commandment: that is, to love God and to love neighbors as one’s self; and, neighbors include enemies.
The life and works of Jesus inspires us. He commissioned us to propagate the multiplication of the faithful followers of the Greatest Commandment — to love God and to love neighbors as one’s self, and neighbors include enemies. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are energized and sustained as we stand in solidarity and as we walk with the people who are oppressed by the present Empire and their collaborators among the power elites in our land.
In the midst of the systemic unpeace and injustices wherein we are sent, we look towards the Alternative Reality envisioned by Jesus characterized by Truth-and-Love, and by Justice-and-Mercy.
May our Christmas celebration, though may not be merry, be full of Hope. May our love for God and our love for our neighbors characterize our celebration of the Birth of the Prince of Peace.