It is known that the angel Gabriel informed the Blessed Virgin that she will give birth to the one who shall bring forth peace, justice, salvation, and the coming age. This miracle happened when God became human. I prefer not to limit the miracle by the expression “incarnate” but suggest the phrase became human in order to highlight the reality that God did not only take a human flesh but became fully human.
Many Palestinians connect Christmas to our towns. Divinity was united to humanity in Nazareth when Jesus was conceived. Later he was born in Bethlehem. His birth was declared in the fields of Beit-Sahur, a town traditionally associated with the shepherds of Christmas, while politicians discussed its implications in the palaces of Jerusalem. In light of this reality, two declarations have caught my attention: the declaration of Jerusalem and of Beit-Sahur. I shall address both of them briefly hoping that we can learn important lessons from these declarations especially after the recent statements of Mr. Trump in which he declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s statements overlooked the concerns of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Jerusalemites and millions of people. Since his unwise declaration, the world is in turmoil pointing out that he is ignoring justice, truth, and UN resolutions.
Similarly, in the first Christmas, there was another political leader. His name was Herod. I am not saying that Trump is Herod. However, his declaration during Christmas echoes Herod’s declaration in certain ways. Herod ignored the representatives of the nations, the Magi, who rejoiced in the Lord of justice and peace. These magi offered their time, efforts, and gifts in order to serve God. But Herod issued a statement that was full of anger, threats, and insistence on restraining any protection or care for those who don’t proclaim Herod as number one. Indeed, tyrannical decisions are similar. Usually these decisions are full of anger. They are made by people who threaten whoever does not agree with them. Their anger is then turned into a decision to wage war against the innocent and the infants. Thus, Herod killed hundreds of children in Bethlehem and its suburbs. The children of Beit-Sahur were killed two thousand years ago because the one who has political authority issued an oppressive statement that insisted on maintaining the empire of Jerusalem. Instead of using his money and authority to spread truth and peace, he decided to use all of his might to fight the baby Jesus. Consequently, he brought forth misery, tears, and mourning and suppressed the joy of Christmas.
We should therefore be careful not to use power and authority in wrong ways. We should invest every effort to dispel stubbornness and pride from embracing power. When the evil trinity of pride, stubbornness, and tyranny meet, then the outcome is surely misery, dictatorship, and the wretchedness of humanity. But Jesus was born in a manger to demonstrate his humility. He submitted to just authorities and lived as a servant. He did not come to be served but to serve. The God of gods became human. The King of kings was not born in a palace but in a manger. He did not choose a rich mother but a poor lady. She was financially poor and was not able to find a place in Bethlehem but she was rich in faith and humility.
After discussing the decision of the king who wanted to establish the kingdom of Jerusalem by tyranny, oppression, mourning, and tears, we can now discuss the declaration of Beit-Sahur. The latter spreads joy and peace. The kingdom of Jerusalem shall not be established by arrogance and tyranny but by love, humility, and peace. In Beit-Sahur the angels issued a declaration of joy stating that the age of fear is over. The time is ripe for connecting heavens and earth via praises. Angels and human beings can join hands in praising God. The time is ripe for spreading peace on earth. It is a declaration that was not written by kings but was formulated by angels and was written in the memories and hearts of the faithful ones. The faithful confirm that God is the advocate of the oppressed and the Savior of sinners. It does not hurt to grant the angels of the good news a citizenship of Beith-Sahur. The Beit-Sahur statement says, “for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
If you suffer from oppression or guilt or despair or personal sins or societal sins or political sins or religious sins or extremism or violence or bigotry, then I offer you good news. A Savior is born. He shall save you and save all those who come to Him. He said: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. We might say that Palestine has a heavy burden. But I bring good news to you this day: Jesus Christ is the hope of Palestine and the Savior of the whole world. He honored Palestine and the whole earth with his birth. So let us honor his name by spreading his love, peace, and by confessing our sins before Him. Let us repent and turn away from every evil. Let us commit ourselves to walk the path of humility, love, peace, and justice. This path is clearly embodied in the birth of our Lord and Messiah Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas from Nazareth!