Does Christmas still matter?
Faith & Inspiration
by John S. Dickerson
Posted on Wednesday, December 23, 2015, at 12:48 pm
In a world where ISIS is spreading and where racial hatred is resurging, one 10-year-old girl is proving that Christmas still matters. Myriam is a refugee from Iraq, a Christian driven by ISIS from her home, her church, and her homeland. In an ABC News interview (see video below) you can hear her say in her own words that she forgives ISIS “because Jesus said forgive each other, love each other the way I love you.” Of violence and war, this 10-year-old says that, based on Jesus’ teachings, “This is what we need to learn: forgiveness.”
Her radical forgiveness echoes another group who forgave another hateful murderer in 2015, those African-American believers from Charleston, S.C., who offered forgiveness to the white man who walked into their church and murdered nine people.
This year is a difficult one to pause and reflect on. So many defining events of 2015 are measured in body bags and driven by ideological hate, a hatred spreading to nearly every continent, among nearly every people group. Like Myriam, we find our hearts saying, “My hopes for life are … for there to be no more wars.” With her, we long for peace.
We are not the first Americans to feel discouraged about violence and killing at Christmastime. During the American Civil War, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lost his wife to a fire and then learned his son, a Union soldier, was gravely injured on the battlefield. The overwhelming evil and suffering caused him to doubt that Christmas still mattered. He doubted the ancient Christmas claim of “Peace on earth, good will to men.” In that deep sorrow he wrote the words that would later become a popular Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”:
“And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Longfellow chose to continue believing the Christmas message that there will indeed be “peace on earth, good-will to men,” through Christ and all who believe in Him.
Today a 10-year-old Iraqi girl chooses to believe the same. Her belief in the teachings of Jesus motivates her to forgive the very men who would have captured her as a slave and sold her if she had not escaped.
Tomorrow African-American believers in Charleston will gather for Christmas Eve services in pews with empty spaces. The hearts that forgave a murderer will sing of “peace on earth.” They are one more generation in 199 years of African-Americans believing the Christmas message in that very congregation—despite injustice, murder, and hatred. Once again they will celebrate that war and killing is not the end for those who believe.
In this modern, divided, busy world, does Christmas still matter? If you doubt it, watch the emotion in the face of Myriam, or travel to Charleston, and see for yourself.
John S. Dickerson
John is the author of Hope of Nations: Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post-Christian World. Follow John on Twitter @JohnSDickerson, on Facebook, and at johnsdickerson.com.