“The Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, your savior comes!”
Christians around the world today celebrate one of the holiest and happiest days of their liturgical calendar: the birth of Jesus Christ, their Messiah.
In this time of uncertainty and difficulty, it is good to reflect on Jesus’ birth and his message.
Comedians have said that being chosen by God isn’t necessarily a good thing. From their enslavement in Egypt to their decades lost in the desert, the people had endured great difficulty. One of their greatest beliefs was in the promise that God would someday send a great king to save his people.
People waited generations for that promise to come true. At the time of Jesus’ birth Israel was under domination of the Roman Empire. Most Jews believed their scriptural king would assemble mighty forces to retake control of the Holy Land, and establish a strong nation that could repel all challenges.
Many believed the timing of his birth was significant: he was born during a campaign to count, and tax, everyone under Roman rule. Might he rise from these beginnings and wrest the chains of servitude from the shoulders of his people?
That’s not what happened. Instead, Christians believe, their god-man was born in humble beginnings. He talked about the importance of servitude, not power and domination. He spoke of love and forgiveness, not control and retaliation. He even was put to death, and showed the ultimate charity by openly forgiving his executioners.
Jesus exhibited great powers, even over the laws of nature. But he used them not to show strength, but to heal the infirm and feed the hungry.
He advocated independence, but not through insurrection; rather, he spoke of individual responsibility and private benevolence, to reduce dependence upon the Romans.
And in the end, his message of peace swept throughout the world, inspiring many to put down their arms and open their hearts. Certainly, many have used the cover of Christianity to justify unspeakable actions against others, but most recognize that such imposters violate rather than embody Christ’s message of peace.
The faithful believe that Jesus ultimately proved his power over the world by defying death itself, rising three days after his execution.
Today we face many conditions similar to those the Israelis faced two millennia ago. Much of the world is ruled by governments that tax and regulate them to the point of weakness. Violence in the streets — especially the nearby threat of drug cartels for those of us living along the border — keeps many people in fear, unwilling to leave their homes after dark.
Jesus, consistent with his message of individual responsibility, warned that we must do our part to improve the world. He charged his followers with continuing his example, and enduring tribulation as he did.
“If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first,” he said. But he reassured them: “The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!”
As we gather to celebrate the joy of this day, let us take heart in the knowledge that peace rescued a violent world once. It can do so again.