Astronomers tell us that galaxies collide in the vast space and when they do, millions of stars explode while others are newly formed. They also calculate that our Milky Way Galaxy is speeding to collide with a galaxy called Andromeda. Our solar system would not survive the impact of that crash. The good news is that such galactic activities are not expected to happen in our lifetime or that of our children or grandchildren.
A careful reading of the stories about the birth of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke also reveals a collision of forces. On the one hand the narratives demonstrate the divine force that is working in a dramatic way with ordinary people such as Zachariah, Elizabeth Simon, Hanna, Mary, Joseph, an inn keeper, some shepherds and a few wise men. On the other hand, the narrative presents forces of darkness represented by King Herod and the Roman empire that he served which were maneuvering and plotting to destroy the work of the Christ-child. Herod massacred children in and around Bethlehem in his obsession to kill Jesus. Matthew also tells the fascinating story of the star that led the wise men to the manger where Jesus was born. Was it a comet? A burning fraction of a star? A planet? Or was it a star sent by God on a mission to aid in the collision of the forces of light against the forces of darkness? I wonder!
The main characters in the narratives of the incarnation were also aware of the collision that was taking place before their eyes, and they alluded to it as they responded to the divine initiative.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, expressed this collision when she, inspired by the Holy Spirit, sang the “Magnificat” as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, in which she said:
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
In the last three verses (bolded), Mary uses the terminology that describes the result of a successful revolution.
The birth her child, Mary says, scatters those who are proud, takes down rulers from their thrones, lifts the humble, fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty.
Zechariah, another significant character in the first advent narrative, describes the collision from the perspective of a people who have been suffering from a foreign occupation. Inspired by the Spirit of God, he praises the Lord saying:
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant.
(Luke 1: 68-77)
Zachariah envisioned a collision of forces that would address the cry of the oppressed and their hope of being saved from their enemies and freed from their fears “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79)
Simon, an old priest who was anticipating divine intervention, looked beyond the birth of Jesus in a manger and predicted that the collision would include the death of Jesus for the redemption of humanity. He announced to Mary,
This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)
The collision of the divine forces with the forces of evil continues as we celebrate the birth of Jesus in 2021. Millions of people around the world yearn for freedom from poverty and political oppression and hundreds of thousands of activists are demanding justice for all members of humanity. However, these longings and efforts collide with the powerful forces of greed, racism, militarism, political corruption, and the economic strangulation of the masses. The caravans of desperate migrants at the southern border of the US and sights of the migrants traveling on flimsy boats from Africa and the Middle East and whose bodies are washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea are vivid illustrations of the collision between the poor and the empires that refuse to give them a chance to have a better future.
The collision of the forces is also well demonstrated in Palestine, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace. On one side you see the forces of occupation carrying on with their brutality against the Palestinian population. Daily, Palestinian homes are demolished, Palestinian lands are confiscated, the young men and women are shot at and killed or interrogated and tortured. Furthermore, Palestinian human rights organizations are accused by the Israeli Prime Minister of terrorism, punished, and ordered to stop defending their cause. Israeli Apartheid is colliding with every aspect of Palestinian life and no earthly power seems to have the strength or the will to put an end to it. And yet, on the other side a growing number of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and secular human rights advocates are raising their voices and challenging the apartheid system that Israel has created.
The good news this Christmas is that the stories recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are stories of hope for the hopeless. Their message is clear: God comes to save, rescue, and redeem his people. He comes to collide with the powers of political, military, and economic structures that oppress the poor to bring them freedom and peace.
It is also clear from the incarnation narratives that God uses ordinary men and women, whom he anoints, and sends them out to do his work of salvation, rescue, and liberation.
Let us during this holy season sing with hope and enthusiasm the song, Joy to The World the Lord is Come. Because:
There is hope today for migrants stranded at our southern borders.
There is hope for migrants sailing across the Mediterranean Sea.
There is hope for the starving masses in Yemen and in Ethiopia.
There is hope for the persecuted Christians in Nigeria.
There is hope this Christmas for the oppressed Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
There is hope for all children, women and men who suffer due to slavery, discrimination, persecution, racism, the pandemic, and economic injustice.
God is here! He is equipping his people to triumphantly collide with the evil powers of this world to bring peace on earth.
This artcile was first published in "The Washington Report for Middle East Affairs" and is re-published with permission from the author