By John Stoner -- December 2014
Christmas, or Advent leading up to it, is traditionally a time of hope and cheer. On what is that based? (And, we sadly recognize, too often a time of depression for those who do not find hope and cheer.)
Luke's announcement of the birth of Jesus included an amazing claim:
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and the hand of all who hate us." (chapter 1).
Saved from our enemies? Is this a serious claim, a credible announcement? Israel's enemies (the Roman empire with its Jewish collaborators) had held the common people of Israel in an iron grip for generations. Imperial officials staged public political executions by crucifixion, by the dozens, to warn dissidents that the empire would brook no resistance. Terrorism by empire.
So if this promised Messiah or Christ would be born to "save us from our enemies," how was that supposed to work? Magic from God?
In a nutshell, here's the debate that fills the Bible. What kind of power really works to provide for human security and flourishing? Maybe the way to find security from enemies is the way Ananias found security from Saul--boldly and insistently invite them to change and reconcile. Disarm an enemy with a surprise greeting: "Brother Saul." (Acts 9).
This would be an alternative to empire based on God-given powers of the human spirit and nature. Reason for hope and joy.