By Rt Rev Irfan Jamil
The Birth of Jesus Christ is very significant for the Christians. It was not an ordinary Birth of a child but was the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation of Human kind from sin and restoring him to the original place. Luke in His gospel gives us the beautiful description of the Birth of Christ. The angle Gabriel announced the birth to Mary and told her, “Fear not”. We again read that the Angel appeared to Joseph with whom Mary was engaged to be married and we read that the angle says to him, “Fear not”. And when Jesus is born the angels appear to the shepherds in the fields and the shepherds are scared the angles speak, “Fear not”.
Right from the book of Genesis in the holy Bible, whenever the angel appears to the prophets and the men and women of God it has been in circumstances which have been very grim and the nations have been oppressed. God is a communicating God and He has been always communicating with the people with a message of hope and a message that we are not to fear.
We are living in an age where people are in the grip of fear, when we speak with the communities they feel overshadowed with clouds of gloom and despair. When we watch news on the TV channels, read news in the newspapers, or hear the radio, most of the time we become fearful because of the sad and treacherous incidents happening across the country and the globe. Despite the gloom and sad stories there is good news that Jesus is born to take away our fear.
If we analyses humankind all over the world they are overshadowed by fear and the case in Pakistan is no different. There are many kinds of fears with which we are confronted but let us look at some of the fears, human being face today:
1. Fear of the Future: As a result of many uncertainties, instability and very volatile circumstances. We are not sure what will happen in the future everyday unfolds with worries and concerns for our families and communities. The big worry of the future is a Fear for all of us and we live in the present in the shadow of Fear.
2. Fear of Death: On the one hand Fear of future and on the other hand there is Fear of death. In reality there is fear of what will be after death. Many writers have tried to explain life after death in their own theological perspective, whatever the explanation the reality is that death is inevitable and many of us Fear death.
3. Fear of Survival: In this fast moving world, our greatest Fear is survival. There are social, economical, spiritual, political and educational pressures and survival in these circumstances and pressures is a challenge and the people of Pakistan feel this greatly and on a few occasions we get news of people giving in to these Fears and sadly ending their lives.
4. Fear of the Unexpected: The shepherd who were looking after their flocks of sheep were not expecting anything unusual, but suddenly a great light shone around them and the angels appeared singing. This sudden unaccepted appearance was a cause of
Fear for the shepherds. As a matter of fact we too are under constant fear of the unexpected all the time.
Everything has a cause and an effect, behind every fear, reservation and anxiety there is a reason, so let me now mention two major reasons which are universal causes of fear in the lives of people and we lining in Pakistan are no exception.
This first reason is Sin and in the Holy Bible both the Old Testament and the New Testament explains that the tragedy and suffering that mark human experience is the result of sin. The biblical concept of sin has been clouded in modern culture, but the experience of each individual, like the history of every society, provides overwhelming testimony to the experience and impact of what the Scriptures call “sin”.
To really understand we need to look at the meaning of this word in the original language for that matter I will elaborate it from the Old and the New Testaments and the languages are Hebrew and Greek. In the Hebrew we have the word ‘hata’ the Urdu equivalent would be ‘khatah’. This simply means, “to miss the mark of the target”. In the Greek the language of the New Testament two major word groups sum up the concept of sin, but the Greek word is almost always ‘harmartia’. Like the Hebrew it also means missing the mark. It assumes that there is a divine standard or norm and portrays humanity as missing the mark. It means fault, guilt, injustice, offence, transgression, unrighteousness, and wickedness to name just a few. It simply means missing the target God has set for us and means failure to obey what God has set as a standard for us. So simply it implies that if I fail to be a good father, mother, sister, brother, wife, husband, son, daughter, officer, worker, leader, politician etc., etc., and the list goes on I have sinned and have fallen short of the standard set by God. The bible says that “All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God’.
So the guilt of sin is one of the major causes of fear in our society.
The second reason which I would like to highlight is “Trust in self rather than in God” and this can be described in two words, ‘arrogance’ and ‘pride’. Both these words describe an attitude that Scriptures carefully analyzes and condemns. Both the Old and the New Testaments add to our understanding of the nature of these self-exalting traits which draw us away from godliness. We read that the cause of the fall of Satan was arrogance and pride. Furthermore the Book of Genesis tells us that the cause of the fall of Adam and Eve too was arrogance as Satan enticed them that they would be like God if they ate the forbidden fruit.
Pride as a self exalting attitude results in arrogance and both are wrong in the eyes of God. Psalm 10 and verse 2 says, “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak …. In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God”.
The dangers of pride and arrogance are great even the most religious fall into and these are no less than sin that is we miss the mark. Both involve a denial of our place as creatures, living in a world shaped and governed by the creator, who has given us his Word that is to govern our lives.
This Christmas brings the message of hope that we need not to be afraid of these fears. The prophet Isaiah, many years before the birth of Christ, prophesied “Say to those with fearful hearts, be strong, do not fear, your God will come, He will come with vengeance, with divine retribution, He will come to serve. (Isaiah 35: 4) ”
Christmas brings the message of strength and hope to the fearful world. It gives life to the barren land with streams of water. Christmas reminds that God uses ordinary people for extraordinary work. He spoke to the shepherds about the great shepherd Jesus. He is the glory of God. The message of Christmas is to share His glory on earth and have peace among people. Today we need this peace. It comes when we have peace with God by repenting of our sins and accepting Him in our heart as our personal saviour.
The humble birth of Jesus Christ gives us a message that there is no room for pride and arrogance and this message is given clearly by Jesus Christ throughout him ministry.
Christmas comes in such a time when we need peace and harmony among us, the incarnating sharing that God, in His love for humanity, became man so that He can communicate with us.
Let us, at this time of Christmas, remember those who have a fear of the Future, fear of Death, fear of Survival and the fear of the Unexpected.
Let us also remember all of us living in Pakistan who are constantly clouded with many worries and have a very grim view if the future. Let us all be reminded that we need to shun pride and arrogance in our lives which are the root causes of the fears. One and all need to be humble and not self centered, but concerned for others. The general elections are round the corners and we all i.e. the voters and the candidates need to remove all the pride and come forward with a spirit of humility, service and honesty.
I wish a happy Christmas and Blessed new year to all and pray for the prosperity of our beloved country Pakistan.
The writer is Master in Divinity from Trinity Theological College Singapore, MA in Political Science and is current Bishop of Lahore.n
By Rt Rev Irfan Jamil