“So this is Christmas”.….sings John Lennon,
in the anthem of our season.
So what? Many might say.
But it might be worth trying to recapture the event before it became a song or a carol.
O Little Town of Bethlehem…
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem,
Judea was under occupation.
The Roman General Varus quelled a Jewish revolt
only 3 years before,
crucifying 2000 rebels-history records.
Silent Night Holy Night…
Long before Jesus was called Prince of Peace,
Long before the Holy Land became Holy,
it was a bloodland, the site of violent resistance
Mary and Joseph knew their baby
would grow up as part of an occupied people.
I saw three ships a Sailing…
What they did not know was his peaceful resistance to oppression,
would see him arrested, tortured, abused
and finally executed,
another martyr to freedom.
O Come all Ye Faithful…
Fast forward 2000 years,
And we ask ourselves.
What if Jesus was born today?
Oh, How different his world would be?
But how different?
Hark the Herald Angels sing…
Jesus born in Bethlehem, December 25th, 2022 is born,
into a land under occupation,
checkpoints, surveillance, demolitions, military violence.
Do you hear what I hear…
He is born as a member of an oppressed people.
His parents would be grieving with other families,
for the 6 shot dead this week in Hebron and Ramallah,
The 60 murdered around Nablus and Jenin this last month,
for the dead children of Gaza’s last wars,
Herod the Great is back for another slaughter of the Innocents.
Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…
The new empire feeds on blood no less than the old.
Christ 2000 years ago is born as a pawn of empire, an empire that kills him.
Christ 2022 is born as a pawn of empire that has an army that is a killing machine,
even more efficient, more ruthless than the Romans.
Every Christmas, no matter who we are,
No matter what we believe,
we cannot resist the message of peace and goodwill.
Why would we?
“On the first day of Christmas…
If Christmas is real,
if Christmas is more than shopping,
if Jesus’s message still speaks to us then and now,
his peace is never easy,
for it is preached in the middle of war.
to the World…
His message of love is never sentimental,
for it is preached to a people despised.
His message of freedom is never a gesture or a token,
for it is preached to a people ruled by empire.
Bells, Jingle Bells…
That is why the people embraced him as their Rabbi, their Teacher.
Whether then or now,
he proclaims a day of judgment coming for the unjust.
“God is not mocked” he thunders,
That is why he is still such a threat.
Deck the Halls…
Jesus born in Bethlehem today
is even more likely to be
imprisoned, abused, tortured and executed
than he was 2000 years ago because
This modern empire is
executing children and young men every single day.
Its bloodlust is insatiable.
It will not even let Christians celebrate in Bethlehem.
At Christmas, celebrate peace, spread the joy, give the gifts,
but remember it means nothing
unless we anchor it in the real experience of Jesus, from Palestine and with Palestinians,
both then and now.
Angels we have heard on high…
So when we sing so cheerfully about angels and shepherds and kings,
We will hear within their soaring harmonies,
a call to resist.
We will hear that biblical summons again from Micah,
to do justice, to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with our God.