Christmas 2023 carries a somber weight, serving as a commemoration rather than a jubilation. The world, marred by conflicts in Gaza, the West Bank, and various oppressive wars, casts a shadow on the season’s usual cheer. The heartbreaking inaction of the international community in the face of genocide and ethnic cleansing further dims the festive spirit. It’s a stark reminder of the unfathomable cruelty humans inflict upon their own kind, underscoring the urgent need for compassion, solidarity, and genuine peace in a world torn by inhumanity. The sermon titled “Christ Under the Rubble,” delivered by The Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, strikes a chord within me. If Jesus were to be born today, he will be found under the rubble. This poignant sermon resonates deeply, emphasizing the enduring strength found in faith and the embodiment of hope, especially as we experience Christmas 2023 in the context of a decolonizing process.

Search and rescue efforts are carried out after an Israeli air strike hits a residential area in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza on December 25, 2023 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]

A commemoration rather than a celebration

Christmas 2023 arrives with a weight that contrasts starkly with its traditional jubilant spirit. Rather than a time of unbridled celebration, this season stands as a commemoration, bearing witness to the somber realities and challenges that afflict our world. In the backdrop of tinsel and twinkling lights, there exists a pervasive sense of sorrow, a collective awareness of the myriad global crises that cast a shadow on the festivities.

Foremost among these disheartening realities are the ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Zionist Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Along with this shocking crisis are the numerous conflicts in other regions marred by strife and oppression. The echoes of American-made, high-technology-designed weapons of mass destruction and the cries of the displaced reverberate across these lands, challenging the very essence of joy and peace that Christmas symbolizes. The once-vibrant streets of Gaza are overshadowed by the weight of destruction and suffering, highlighting the stark contrast between the ideals of the season and the harshness of Zionist Israel’s crimes against humanity.

Moreover, the disillusionment with the international community’s inaction in the face of atrocities and humanitarian crises further tinges the season with a sense of despondency. The deafening silence and lack of concerted efforts to address genocides, ethnic cleansings, and the plight of millions who are displaced or persecuted create a dissonance against the message of goodwill and unity that Christmas embodies. This is because the colonizing powers — the United States of America, the European powers, and their client nations — are supporting this Settler colonizing Zionist State of Israel.

This shift from jubilation to commemoration underscores the need for introspection and reflection. It prompts us to reassess the true meaning of this festive period, challenging us to look beyond the glittering commercialism and delve deeper into the essence of empathy, solidarity, and compassion. It beckons individuals and nations alike to rekindle the spirit of unity, to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, and to strive for genuine peace in a world besieged by conflicts and inhumanity.

However, amidst this solemnity, there remains a glimmer of hope—a resilient flame that refuses to be extinguished. It resides in the unwavering faith of those enduring strife, in the tireless efforts of humanitarian workers, in the small acts of kindness and generosity that defy the darkness. The commemoration of Christmas 2024 serves not only as a reminder of the world’s turmoil but also as a beacon of hope, urging us to channel our energies towards creating a more compassionate and equitable world.

“Christ Under the Rubble” | 2023 Christmas nativity scene at the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. Photo by CLCB.

“Christ Under the Rubble”

Christmas Lutheran Church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, said in his sermon that if Jesus were born today, he would be born “under the rubble.” Rev. Isaac’s poignant assertion serves as a reminder that the essence of Christmas lies not only in the joyful celebration but also in recognizing and empathizing with the suffering and struggles of humanity. It compels us to contemplate the transformative power of empathy and action, emphasizing the need to work towards a world where no child is born “under the rubble,” but rather into a realm of peace, justice, and genuine compassion.

“In our pain, anguish and lament, we have searched for God and found him under the rubble in Gaza,” Isaac said. “Jesus became the victim of the very same violence of the Empire. He was tortured. Crucified. He bled out as others watched. He was killed and cried out in pain: ‘My God, where are you?’ In Gaza today, God is under the rubble.”

“And in this Christmas season, as we search for Jesus, he is to be found not on the side of Rome, but our side of the wall — in a cave, with a simple family. Vulnerable. Barely and miraculously surviving a massacre. Among a refugee family. This is where Jesus is found.”

Decolonizing Christmas

Decolonizing Christmas is an endeavor that invites reflection, reshaping traditions, and reclaiming the essence of this festive season. For centuries, Christmas has been entwined with cultural impositions, assimilations, and commercialization, often overshadowing its roots and diversity. At its core, the concept of decolonization in the context of Christmas challenges the hegemonic narratives that have dominated this holiday. It prompts a critical examination of the historical and cultural contexts in which Christmas traditions emerged, recognizing that many customs and practices were imposed or altered through colonial influences.

Decolonizing Christmas isn’t just about reshaping traditions; it’s an opportunity to center our celebrations around the essence of Christ’s teachings. Christ-centeredness serves as the guiding light in this endeavor, reminding us of the core values of compassion, love, and inclusivity that Jesus himself embodied.

As we embark on the journey to decolonize Christmas, let’s anchor our efforts in the teachings of Christ. Jesus’s message of love for all transcends cultural boundaries and historical impositions. It prompts us to acknowledge and honor diverse narratives while embracing the true essence of his teachings.

This Christmas 2023, Christ-centeredness prompts us to reevaluate the commercialized aspects of Christmas. Jesus’s life was marked by simplicity and humility, values that stand in contrast to the materialism often associated with the holiday season. Decolonizing Christmas calls for a shift from material indulgence to meaningful connections and acts of kindness—echoing Christ’s teachings of selflessness and generosity.

Children in “Caves” | Though there’s no bombing done and no children under the rubble in the urban centres of the Philippines, children among the poor in this country experience similar oppression through government corruption and exploitative policies of extractive corporations. Thousands of them are living in “caves” like this. Manila, Philippines. Photo by UNICEF Philippines.

Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2023/12/appropriate-and-authentic-2024-christmas-is-more-of-commemoration-than-a-celebration/

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