Momentous events of history, both personal, national and international are often captured in a photo. Moments that capture a greater question or feeling. Through the so named “Sydney Siege” event my eyes constantly fell on the picture of the Black Standard being pushed up against a window by terrified hostages directly above the words “MERRY CHRISTMAS”
Something about the picture bothered me and it was not just the fear and the intended message being conveyed by the raving lunatic inside, it was the juxtaposition of such a fear filled message beside one intended to communicate love and mercy.
Don't for a second miss my point, I am not highlighting the Islamic confession of faith next to Merry Christmas. Whilst I do not believe (obviously) in the Islamic confession, the primary message of Man Haron Monis was fear.
Mr Monis' motivation and beliefs must be addressed but that is not my central thought in this post. I can seek to understand what is 'out there' but I can only control my own response to the reality that at times confronts us.
The challenge that lies before each person, community and government is what we do when fear invades environments that should be defined by love.
What does love look like in the midst of fear and oppression?
In the Gospel of Matt, Chapter 1 V 21 – 23 it says...
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (“God with us”).” Matt 1:21 - 23
GOD – The creator, Infinite in being, in wisdom , in power, in his presence
WITH – beside, next to, among, along side of, near
Jesus was born into an environment of fear and oppression, a people conquered and demoralised, a hurting people. God's motivation in sending Jesus? LOVE (John 3:16)
When we are hurt our natural response is to hurt back, to trade anger for anger and hate for hate. It has been said 'hurting people hurt people' but as Christians we must remember the opposite it true as well. 'Healed people heal people', Jesus traded our sin for his righteousness.
The issue for each person is not really what someone else believes or even what another community believes but how will we respond to fear?
The Bible tells us that God loved us whilst we were still sinners (Rom 5:8). That Jesus died for us not because we loved him but because he loves us. (John 3:16 - 17). If God wanted us destroyed he would have sent us a destroyer but in love he sent a saviour.
Jesus is our saviour, our example, the one that has gone in front of us. He understands our pain and calls us to live in him, for him and like him (1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 4:17)
We are called in scripture to emulate the love, attitude and action of God in coming in flesh.
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Phil 2:4 - 8
Immanuel, 'God with us' is what love looks like, it looks like loving even those you feel are your enemy (Matt 5:44) because “Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend” (Martin Luther King Jnr)
Despite having the sovereign right to rule Jesus 'humbled himself' and 'made himself of no reputation' (or 'nothing') and was 'obedient' even though it would lead him to the cross.
Fear constantly makes it presence known, even in the presence of the greatest message of love and peace.
This Christmas (and always) be like Christ himself who stepped across the divide to bring reconciliation, loving even those you may perceive as 'enemies', humbling yourself and laying aside your need to recognition or esteem.
Love and pray for those that have been caught in the fear and pain caused by this and other events, love the Muslim, fearful and anxious about each person's response down the street by reaching out in humility and love, love the person caught up in hate filled rhetoric by showing grace and mercy, they are also hurting and need healing.
In the face of fear and intimidation, Merry CHRISTmas!!!
Remember, Jesus said “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)