SABEEL CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
Bethlehem not Annapolis
Dec. 18. 2007
During this Christmas season as we reflect on the message of the angels,
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace...” we can only understand
it against the peace which Caesar gives. God’s formula for peace is
juxtaposed with Pax Romana. For Caesar, peace is imposed by the might
of empire. This is evident when occupied people are forced to give homage
to Caesar, when they are coerced to pay taxes to Rome, and when they accept
Rome’s sovereignty and unquestioned domination. It is against this
kind of peace that the radical message of Christmas comes to us, “Glory to
God in the highest and on earth peace...” Peace comes when the sovereignty
of God is acknowledged rather than Caesar’s. For people living under
occupation or oppression, Caesar has become a symbol of the evil that crushes
For many of us, the message of the angels stands for God’s kingdom.
In the kingdom of God, glory and sovereignty belong to God and not to Caesar.
God’s peace is not achieved by crushing and eliminating others but by embracing
them. Caesar’s empire is built on violence and military might, God’s
empire is built on justice and mercy. Caesar’s peace enslaves and humiliates,
God’s peace liberates and restores dignity to the oppressed. Caesar
builds walls to separate people, God tears down the walls of separation to
join, unify, and reconcile them one with the other. Caesar’s peace
is exclusive for a chosen few, God’s peace is inclusive for all regardless
of their race or ethnicity.
Ultimately, peace will come not from the Caesars and all those who
trust in their military might and in the arrogance of their power but from
the meek that put their trust in God. It is the meek who will inherit
the earth. Peace will come from the labor, toil, and hard work of all
those who do not glory in their riches or in their power but glory in their
love and service of God and in their love and acceptance of others.
God’s message of peace still rings true, not from Annapolis that represents
empire, but from the small town of Bethlehem, Palestine that still suffers
under occupation. The peace that the Caesars of the world give is largely
false and deceptive, and it cannot last. Only the peace that God gives,
the peace that is based on justice and truth will survive and prosper.
In the midst of these uncertain times, Sabeel wishes all its friends a joyful
Christmas. May the New Year bring us closer to the peace we hope for;
and let us continue the struggle together for the achievement of God’s peace
for all the people of Palestine-Israel.
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
December 18, 2007