A Christmas Message from the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary

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The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary wishes you a wonderful Christmas! May the following reflections by members of our community bless you this season.

 

Teresa Sfeir

Communication and Editing Officer

“On earth peace,” the angels told the shepherds. Were they heralding world peace with the advent of Christ? The past 2020 years or so beg to differ.

In the first chapter of Matthew, the angel mentions two names to Joseph. The first is Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins” (vv. 21). The next is Immanuel (vv. 23).

He is Jesus, our Savior who came to lay down His life. I cannot see the nativity scene without Calvary. Because Christ’s work reconciled me to God, I can find joy in darker times. We, who walk this earth, have something unperishable and everlasting. We can have peace with God.

But He is also Immanuel, God with us. God walked the tiled streets of the city with His dusty sandals. He struck vibrant conversations with city vendors at the market stands. He offered His cloak to warm a homeless man on a frosty morning. He sat on the ground beside the downcast.

He is still Immanuel through the Holy Spirit in the Church. This is why ABTS trains faithful Christ followers and stands by the people during a crumbling economy, a pandemic and an explosion. Could it be that God’s people are to spread His peace on earth, until Christ comes again and establishes His overarching reign?

May our hearts not grow faint as we reflect on an absurd year gone by, but may we instead find rest in the immutability of God. May we strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees. May this Christmas be a reminder.

 

Nabil Habiby

Lecturer in New Testament Studies

Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great. Herod had murdered multiple members of his family and used political cunning to seize the throne after almost one hundred years of Hasmonean (Maccabean) Jewish rule. He reigned in submission to the Rome Empire.

Christ came in a time not so different than ours and, unfortunately, a time similar to many other periods in human history. Political parties squabble over power. Empires go to war. People are killed for one man- and it is almost always a man- so that he may sit on a chair in a palace and call himself king or president for a few days… or years… or decades.

Yet when pregnant Mary met Elizabeth she praised God: “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:52).

The incarnation of Christ is not just an act of love towards a sinful world. It is an act of justice towards an oppressed world. The true king chose to side with the poor and the downtrodden. He did not visit Herod. He did not visit Rome. He was born on the margins of an empire to bring hope to the marginalized.

May the song of Mary be the song of the church. What is the good news of Christmas? The mighty will not prevail. The poor will find justice. The meek will inherit the earth.

 

Walid Zailaa

Academic Dean and Assistant Professor of Old Testament

Christmas this year is unlike any other year. The joy has been silenced. It is no longer the laughter of family and friends around the dinner table that can be heard as you walk down the street; it is no longer the excitement of children who are eagerly waiting for their Christmas gifts.

This year, Christmas in my hometown has been dressed in black. Weeping Beirut refuses to be comforted for her children because they are no more. The dark streets are calling out for Christmas celebrations to no avail. Everything feels cold, empty, and bitter. The bride of the Mediterranean is dying at the hands of its own guardians without mercy.

Despite the ominous picture, the story does not end here. Indeed, Christmas this year is unlike any other year. Instead of waiting to receive all the blessings of this season, it is time to give them away. Christmas is not about us and our planned activities, it is all about igniting the spark of hope in the midst of darkness; that is why Jesus came to our world.

Christmas this year is about planting a seed of hope, no more and no less.

 

Bassem Melki

Dean of Faculty and Lecturer in Peace Studies

Christmas celebrates the redemption process to accomplish God’s plan for man’s salvation that began from eternity. And the great news was proclaimed: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today … a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Christmas is the celebration of the day the Messiah came to duel against the enemy of mankind. It marks the fulfilment of the prophecy from Genesis 2:15, “He (the woman’s offspring) will crush your (the serpent’s) head.” This is a festival of love at work, of victorious love, of manifested love, when God’s heart moved to do something for mankind, to come and be one of them. He did not come with empty hands. It is the Gift of heaven to earth saying, “I am thinking of you, of your troubles, of your suffering, of your pain, of your brokenness, and of your weaknesses.”

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). To this blessed baby- blessed Jesus, blessed God- I give adoration while kneeling before Him. I bring my heart to Him, my soul and my being sacrificed and consecrated to Him. I kneel before Jesus in prayer with Paul as he says: “For this reason I kneel before the Father … I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through the His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:14-17). Christmas happens all over in each one of you.

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