God's people during this Christmas season are experiencing an acute understanding of how desperate the world is for a Savior.
In many ways, our world today parallels the world into which Jesus was born. Amid the chaotic difficulties of that world, and ours, a baby came to be our deliverer.
The Jewish people suffered greatly in the days surrounding Jesus' birth. Jews were colonized, despised and poor. They had been sent into exile for endless stretches of time during which they wondered, wrote, and sang about when and how deliverance would finally come and their suffering would be alleviated.
Into that fractured culture, the Savior came, not as a mighty deliverer but as a baby whom angels sang about. An angel instructed Joseph to name him Jesus, which means "Deliverer." Later, he would become known as "Immanuel," which means "God with us."
This baby's birth was and is the greatest miracle and the greatest news ever recorded. The event of His birth will never be surpassed.
And yet, much like God's people 2,000 years ago, the Christian minority today is the largest persecuted group on the planet. With ceaseless hostilities, Christians are attacked, killed, defamed, exiled and imprisoned under false charges.
This is an uncertain Christmas for Christians across the globe, from China to Iran to Pakistan and beyond. Even in my home country of India, there are extremists who sometimes invade and destroy churches, attack schools, and spew hate on social media with impunity.
Their unrelenting animosity is permeating the nation. Just recently, a government investigator in the state of Karnataka reported that there were no forced conversions by Christians in that area. Rather than spreading the news that the Christians had not broken the law, the government transferred the investigator elsewhere.
Christians are not the only distressed group. The poor of our world have contended with added suffering in 2021. The year of the COVID virus has now expanded to two years. With the new Omicron strain, it appears to have no end. All along the way, COVID was used as a pretense to shut churches in the United States, to spew anti-Semitic slurs against Jews, and to suppress the worship of Muslims and Hindus too.
As the number of those who suffer around the world increases, those who care about people wonder what 2022 will bring.
Maybe God will surprise?
In Israel ,years ago, a young mother, perhaps only 16 years old, must have wondered the same. What would befall her and her Son, Jesus? Mary was raised in the Jewish Scriptures and had been waiting for a deliverer to save Israel. What a shock it was for her to find that He would come as a baby, and that she was chosen to be His mother.
This young, empowered woman marveled at the task of birthing and raising the God-child in such a volatile world. Raising a child in her culture involved the usual feeding and clothing, as well as the very important job of teaching and guarding in her child the historic faith and culture. What joy and fulfilment this young woman would have experienced as she taught the Son of God who was born to be the great deliverer.
As the pregnant Mary carried the child of God, the deliverer, with her mind filled with the truth of the Hebrew Scriptures, faith welled within her, and she burst out in song. Mary's great refrain was recorded by Luke in the first chapter of his Gospel.
Mary sang of God's great mercy that extends from one generation to another. She sang of how Jesus brings the power of God to deliver us from evil and wickedness, how Jesus is and forever will be the eternal King of the world for all those who suffer and are persecuted. It is Jesus who fills the mouths of the hungry, revives the hearts of the discouraged and gives hope for all those who fight and suffer and struggle in this life.
This year, as we recognize the need of a Savior for our world that is rife with hardship, let us raise our voices in faith with Mary's. Her child, this Jesus, now lives in the hearts of hundreds of millions of people. Let us pray for the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the poor and needy in our world. And let us rejoice that Jesus has come for them. Our deliverer, our "God with us," will also be with them.
Archbishop Joseph D'Souza is an internationally renowned human and civil rights activist. He is the founder of Dignity Freedom Network, an organization that advocates for and delivers humanitarian aid to the marginalized and outcastes of South Asia. He is archbishop of the Anglican Good Shepherd Church of India and serves as the president of the All India Christian Council.
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