From Nayiri Karjian, Association General Minister
December 14, 2023
The parallels cannot be missed. The first Christmas also happened in a very chaotic, messy and politically charged world, in a military dictatorship. Life was not easy. Domination and oppression were the norm. Suffering and injustice defined life itself. Religion and politics were deeply intertwined. And religions born out of those times boasted Savior Messiahs, Incarnate Divinities who would come and save the people from their misery.
Following that tradition, the people of Israel waited for their own Savior Messiah, Incarnate Divinity, who some believed, would come with force and might, conquer the ruling Roman Empire and establish a Jewish political kingdom. At the time, Israel lived under the oppressive rule of the empire where the political atmosphere was brutal, the economic tax burden excessive, with eroding poverty. Caesar Augustus was the winner of the Roman civil war, and as such, was called “the savior of the world.”
Religion and politics were deeply intertwined. Divinity was implied for the Roman emperor, the Caesar claimed the titles Lord, Son of God, Bearer of Peace, and Savior of the World, while Jews would recognize only God as Lord and Savior, the Bearer of Peace, the Light of the World, etc.
It is in this messy political context that Jesus was born. 2000 years later, we can see the parallels in our own time. The world run by unjust political and economic power. Coercive force is valued over shared power, tyrant bravery over deep courage, rampant greed over generous sharing. Might makes things right, and winning at any cost is prized. Injustice and poverty, hunger and war, hatred and violence often go unquestioned and unchallenged.
We still need our Savior Messiah, Jesus the Christ, our Incarnate Divinity to save us from ourselves, our brokenness and senselessness. This salvation is not only about our individual souls but about the salvation and wholeness of all creation, and our communal life together. This salvation is not just about me or you but about all things living. This salvation is about the healing and wholeness of our hearts, our relationships, our planet earth, and all that is broken. You may remember that the word salve is the root of the word salvation. Hence, salvation is healing, liberation, freedom from the oppression we humans impose on one another. Besides, our personal liberation cannot come at the expense of another’s.
Throughout history, the incarnation of the divine in human form has given humans the promise and the hope, that the earth can be touched by heaven, that the universe can be redeemed by divine presence, that we humans can discover the sacred and the holy in our lives, and a different world is possible.
It seems the world is not going to change until we change it – until Jesus is born in the manger of our hearts, until we incarnate the divine and embody Love to one another, until we give birth to Jesus walking in the path of healing and liberation, until we realize that we are one humanity, and salvation means healing and liberation for ALL and not just for some.
And, yes. “Christmas will come even at the face of hatred and warring – no atrocity too terrible to stop it, no Herod strong enough, no hurt deep enough, no disaster shattering enough. For someone will see the star, someone will hear the angel voices, someone will run to Bethlehem, someone will know peace and goodwill, and Christ will be born.” A. Weems