Taking a break from the hustle and bustle, the members of the IMES team reflected on the meaning of Christmas and how it is embodied in their work within the Institute. Our team members share their reflections below, along with their Christmas greetings.
This is the message of Christmas: God taking the initiative to reach out to his creation that stood in rebellion against him since the dawn of time. Jesus Christ, Emanuel – God with us – invites us to the unlikely fellowship of a banquet undeserved. The God of the universe extends a hand of peace to lavish loving hospitality on us, wretched though we are. We, in turn, put aside for a moment the reality of our violent world to receive his peace, so that we might extend it to others in hospitality in a country ripped asunder by sectarianism, violence, and division. These are the gifts bestowed on us: Divine peace in the midst of a violent world; the soft breath of a mother looking over her God-given gift; the melodious humming of shepherd men reminiscing on the resounding chant of angelic beings: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatu Allah! “May the peace and mercy of God be upon you all” in this blessed season!
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 14: 1). Christ became incarnate in the world to show that he could relate to humankind in our state and our language, inviting us to enter with him into his Holy of Holies. In imitation of Christ, IMES Peacebuilding Initiatives like the Church-Mosque Network aim to break down historic barriers between Islamic and Christian communities, with the resultant fellowship being an expression of acceptance, mutual respect, and friendship – a foretaste of the Holy of Holies. Through the Forum of Current Affairs, we explore the results of the incarnation for our present day and seek to understand how we should behave as a unified local church in the light of contemporary challenges.
During the time of advent comes the image of a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, who himself is the incarnate Word seen in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He is the word of life and through him life was made. This is what our world needs today in the midst of the darkness of death occupying our communities. We must remember the Word that made his dwelling among us so as to offer us life in abundance and inaugurate a new covenant, granting the Kingdom of God to all who follow the life and teachings of Christ. As General Editor of the IMES Blog and Regional Brief, my role is to tailor words in such a way as to contribute to the advance of the Word of Life, whom the institute serves. Through our weekly blog and our monthly regional brief, we raise a prophetic voice as we endeavor to conform to Kingdom values, made manifest in message and example of Jesus. This, to me, is the core of the message of the incarnation.
Jade Kassis and Jimmy Geagea
God extended His hand to us in Christ Jesus, the Holy One, who through the incarnation became human in order to restore the sin-broken relationship, building a bridge, between us and Himself. He lived among us, spoke with us, and ate with us; he knew us though we did not know Him. In accordance with Christ’s incarnation, IMES’ Khebz w Meleh initiative aims at building bridges of love, understanding, acceptance, and service, with hopes of mending and strengthening our relationship with each other. This Christmas, let us seek to follow the example of Christ’s incarnation by listening to, understanding, and learning from one another.
Central to our Lord’s Prayer is the following appeal: “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven.” This, to me, is what the Advent and Christmas seasons are all about. As we commemorate the King who once came, we simultaneously anticipate, long for his future return. And, as we act in anticipation of the coming Kingdom – a Kingdom defined by all-encompassing joy, justice and peace (Isaiah 9) – our task between Advents is to partner with God in doing all we can to see this future Kingdom vision become a present-day reality. For this reason, we at IMES work to bring about positive transformation in thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims in and beyond the Middle East.
As the prophet declares:
9 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For unto us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this
(Isaiah 9: 1-7).