Christmas comes at the most inconvenient times, when the world doesn’t seem especially interested in welcoming a “Prince of Peace.” So it is in 2015. It’s been like that from the beginning. When first “it came upon the midnight clear,” only a few years had passed since the Romans came to the Nazareth region, putting all the men to sword, raping the women, and enslaving the children. Sound familiar? Mary’s child became a refugee in Egypt. He and his family were forced to flee Herod.
Few seasons celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth have been peaceful. Yet, this one seems somehow worse, more threatening. Perhaps it’s the awful randomness of the terror.
People cry out that Obama, Putin, the Middle East governments or someone else must do something. Many demand more killing so long as their people are doing the killing.
During this Christmas season, the question is not what governments can do but what the faithful should do. From the slaughter in Syria to the shootings in Colorado and San Bernardino, the commonality is religion. If people of contaminated faith bring violence, people of honest faith can bring peace.
Perhaps the starting place is Jesus. Not the dogmatic Jesus who has unfortunately been proclaimed in anti-Semitic crusades through history. Not the Jesus some Christians claim gives them an exclusive claim to a relationship with God. That Jesus brings only division.
What about the Jesus who both entered and departed this world as a devout Jew? That Jesus’s teachings were the foundation for the Jesus Movement of the First Century. This is the same Jesus whose birth was foretold in the Quran where he is highly revered.
“Behold! The angels said,” according to Qur'an 3:45-51. "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus the son of Mary held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of the company of those nearest to Allah.”
If those verses from the Quran were read in most Christian churches on Christmas Eve, many wouldn’t notice the difference from the same story in Luke, which teaches, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
Think about it. These are the stories of the coming birth of a Jew told by both the Christian Gospels and the Muslim’s Quran. It’s the Jesus shared by the three great faiths. This Jesus is the starting place for people of good faith in the three Abrahamic religions who seek a way to journey toward peace on earth, good will toward all.
Muslim scripture is already there. “Say ye,” it is written in the Quran 2:135-141, "We believe in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to all Prophets from their Lord; we make no difference between one and another of them and we bow to Allah."
Likewise all three Abrahamic faiths teach the love of neighbor. The verses are familiar to most in the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels. Read also Surah 4:36 of the Quran. “Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer, and what your right hands possess.”
This holiday season, take your beliefs seriously enough to conceive how they can bring us together. People of faith, not governments, can restore harmony, by celebrating the birth of the Jesus we hold in common as the source of “peace on earth, good will to all.”