During one of his papal sermons at the Vatican, Pope Francis urged Christians to make Christ the number one person in their lives. According to the pontiff, “People need to perceive that for that disciple, Jesus is truly ‘Lord,’ he is truly the center of his life, the whole of his life. It does not matter if, like every human person, he has his limits and even his mistakes – provided he has the humility to recognize them.” These words are inspirational at this period of great expectation before the coming of the messiah. We need such swords to encourage us despite the darkness pervading the world. The Christmas season brings us to the reality of God’s inestimable love for his children, the blood of Abraham, our father in faith. Pope Francis, therefore, is right in preaching Christ as the center point of every believer.
Placing the words of Pope Francis against those of the Prophet Isaiah, we find a correlation. The Prophet Isaiah said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.” While the Prophet Isaiah prophesied about Israel’s total dependence on God, the Pope also preached about the Christian reliance on Jesus. In both, we see the necessity for vindication for a people under the yoke of oppression, or the weight of captivity. Such words of inspiration bring soothing relief for a people under pain and great despondency. Without revelation there would be no complete understanding of God’s plans for his people. God loves brings relief and not pain or destruction.
Precisely because the people of Israel expected a messiah, God also expected total commitment from them toward a prosperous future. The Prophet Isaiah poetically narrates God’s intention, “As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth springs up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.” The total renewal of the nation of Israel will spread to other nations of the world bringing justice and new life.
At the inter-Testament period, John the Baptist preached in the same manner to reawaken the sense of renewal before the coming of the messiah. This is what John the Baptist says about himself, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” By recognizing his limitation, John the Baptist knew his role and committed himself to duty as an instrument of change.
In line with the prophetic tradition of ancient times, John the Baptist did not depart from informing the people about God’s intention of redeeming his people from oppressive tendencies. We can interpret the condition of the Jewish people as pathetic from examining historical events. However, we should not be quick to condemn the Jews and their actions of self-determination or survival. God saved them from oppression and slavery in Egypt and at other times of national calamity. For the last two thousand years, we have seen barbaric acts against the Jewish people from the bizarre to the nonsensical. We need to understand their frustration as people with rights to survive by any standards.
As Christians, do we not have the same frustrations as the Jews? Anti-Christian feelings fly all over the modern times from the bizarre to the nonsensical. Christianity is an answer to the question of pervading hatred eating deeply into the hearts of agents against the growth of the human race. While this is true, it is unfortunate to think that Christianity would exist without the Cross. Christianity gives us hope to expect God’s anointing from above that allows us to act with caution when we are provoked. By restraining ourselves from the unwholesome behavior of the enemies of the Cross, we bring the light of God into a world that is filled with darkness. This Christian attitude answers the question of God’s presence in our world. The ancient Jews knew of this wide gap and covered it with holy acts against provocation and not being the provocateur.
The message of the advent season is taken from St. Paul’s narrative to the people of Thessaloniki. He writes, “Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” These few words are filled with useful lessons. Christians test every ideology to affirm if it confirms with the Christian teaching. The non-violent approach of Jesus is already a defiance to an aggressive preaching that promotes hatred. For this reason, we need to be cautious about judging the Jews, ancient or modern, for the wrong reasons for their efforts to survive.
Intimidated by oppressive forces, it is important to look up to God for redemption. Pope Francis urges Christians to depend on Jesus because he is peaceful, loving, and real. This is not out of fear but out of respect for this salvific essence. Imbibing such teaching is a step in Christian holiness in being Christ-centric beginning from the season of advent onwards. The birth of Jesus and what he represented is a complete affirmation to God’s plan.
In the book The Great Hand, Israelmore Ayidor, a young Ghanaian inspirational writer, says, “Plan and plants your gifts. Pray and play your role. The harvest is assured when God manifests his anointing power in your passionate actions.” Depending on Christ gives us the passion to look up to heaven for inspiration during the darkness that threatens our existence. Christmas, therefore, is that moment we refresh our anointing that comes from heaven renewing our love over hatred either as Jew or Greek, slave or free, male, or female (cf. Gal. 3: 28). Jesus is at the center of all our actions. Are you living under God’s anointing? Keep praying!BACK TO LIST