Christmas is joy, celebration, and festivity with family and friends. We look forward to it with much anticipation all year through. Some indeed start counting 'days to go until Christmas' from October, and sometimes even earlier.
For the nation of Israel, the coming of the Messiah was an undying hope. The Saviour came not as a Monarch with all the regality, as was expected, but as a King who would soon redefine power in powerlessness. He came as a new-born of the poorest of the poor. Born in surroundings shunned by humans, a refugee in infancy as his parents sought to save him from the wrath of a dictatorial ruler; growing up a carpenter in a despised hinterland town of which the elite said, "nothing good has ever come from Nazareth". The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ defied every imagination that the common people of Israel had about the Messiah. God chose to identify with the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. The Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55) and the Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:16-21) are good reminders of this.
Humble shepherds, the nobodies in the society, then as now, were the first to hear of the birth of Jesus, proclaimed by angels who sang, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on Earth peace among those whom he favours!" Jesus bridged the distance between the highest heaven and Earth, with peace: Peace with God, peace within, and peace with our fellow human beings.
We need His peace now in our nation, especially as we go through a winter of turbulence, unrest, and ill-will. As I write this, at least 25 people have lost their lives in protests against a controversial and divisive law. Hundreds have been booked, arrested or detained. Social atmosphere is polarized and India struggles, as the government, the ruling party, and their allies seek to justify linking citizenship with religion. As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us pray for peace in our land. Let us pray for hatred and polarization to disappear and for sense and love to prevail.
It may perhaps even be proper for the Indian Christian community to be a little muted in our celebration of Christmas this year. We should dedicate a special day between now and the New Year to pray for peace in our nation. On behalf of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, I request and call upon all EFI member Churches, organizations and individual members to dedicate 29th December 2019 as a special day to pray for the nation.
Christmas is also a time of courage. Christ came into this world knowing that He would be rejected, betrayed, shamed, abandoned, tortured, and put to death. The sins of the world would be put on Him. Yet, He came. An act of supreme courage. An impossible act to follow. But as we follow Him, we must follow his act of Love and Courage.
This Christmas, I wish you courage.
It takes courage to admit when one is wrong and ask for forgiveness. It takes courage to take the first step towards reconciliation, more so when you have done no wrong. It takes courage to love, to give till it hurts, as Mother Teresa said. It takes courage to love rather than hate. And it takes courage to speak truth to power. As the Church of Jesus Christ, we have been called by God to walk humbly with Him. This we do by being agents of reconciliation and healing, justice, love, mercy.
I wish you a blessed Christmas and a peaceful, joyous new year 2020,
Rev. Vijayesh Lal
Evangelical Fellowship of India