Hoping Against Hope
Bishop's Christmas Message 2021
The Christmas story which we commemorate on December 25th every year is a reminder to us that all of salvation history, which found its climax in the person of Jesus, was part of a human-divine drama that seemed like hoping against hope. Isaiah, who prophesied his coming eight hundred years prior to Christ's arrival, sought to articulate the sentiment of the people of his time, putting in context the world's situation. This is what he said: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone (Is 9:1).
Even Saint Paul, who was Jesus' contemporary, though he didn't know Jesus in person, portrays the continuous saving disposition of God despite the hopelessness perceived in human history. He says: "What proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners" (Rom 5:8).
All these indicate that the entire history of salvation has been a swim against the tide reflected in crises of one kind or another, spiritual and natural. Every age has had its own crises and struggles. For three years now, the entire world has been fighting against a common invisible enemy—the Coronavirus. Like all crises, it has been the object of despondency, the feeling of hopelessness, fear, anger, and the like.
From the beginning of his Gospel, Matthew introduces the genealogy of Jesus, spelling out the pre-determined plan of God to save the world through the meandering of human life, the intermingling of sin and grace, of falling, and rising. It took 1800 years from Abraham, for God to arrive at His perfect plan in Jesus Christ. His coming has affected human history in an indelible way. The life of Jesus, therefore, is testimony of what God can do with human cooperation. We must never underestimate the contribution that each of us can make to the healing of our society. The real pressing issue for us as a nation, as a region, and the world at large is to navigate through the present pandemic towards a more positive and lasting solution.
Just as Christmas and its mission for the salvation of the world was an act of human-divine cooperation, so will the end to the pandemic be. Just as Jesus did not just fall from the sky but instead incarnated Himself (took flesh) in the human condition, so too a solution to the present crisis will require some form of incarnation. In other words, the need for both prayer and action, which calls for human responsibility and divine response.
Therefore, let us, in this time of the pandemic, thank God for the front-line workers who put themselves out day and night for the health of our nations. We pray for the leaders, civil and religious, our professionals and business community; our farmers and fisherfolk who provide our nourishment. We pray for the immigrants seeking a better life among us, who do not always feel welcome, like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph at the birth of the Christ-child. These immigrants too, contribute to who we are and what we can become. We pray for our educators and students, our lawmakers and law enforcement agents; everyone who makes the coming of Christ in our lives more real.
We pray, finally, that the hope which Christmas represents will give us the impetus to continue to work wholeheartedly and responsibly for complete health and wellbeing, both spiritual and physical, for our nation and for the world.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.