A 2014 Christmas Letter

Prayers for for Jerusalem, Gaza, Israel, the Greater Middle East…Iran….Pakistan… Cuba…North Korea…Nigeria…and our trouble spots in the US.

Bani Image RotatedThis is not an article exactly, but nor is it a digital Christmas card. Let’s call it a Christmas letter. We do wish all our readers a Merry Christmas (or a Happy Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or whatever our readers may find themselves celebrating!), AND we also know how each new tragedy in the news can make “Peace on Earth” seem terribly far away.

The picture with this expresses my feelings as I move through this Advent season into Christmas —feelings that I know I share with many here in the Compassion, Peace, and Justice Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Yet the picture comes from a card done for a congregation in the year after 9/11/01. The original was painted by the late Assurbanipal Babilla, an Iranian immigrant who was a member of the Scarborough Presbyterian Church in Briarcliff, New York. “Bani,” as he was known, had lost everything after the Iranian revolution, as he was a theatre director and playwright as well as an artist, and a Christian. He had in fact been jailed at one point under the Shah but his style was all out—which had prevented him from being ordained in Iran, though he was a Near East School of Theology graduate.

So what can we say that picture means? The heavenly peace and joy are transmitted through the symbol of a small Christmas tree, which is also the “axis mundi,” the hidden pivot or axis of the world. Those values of faith, worship, and love, of communion and community, of family and of generosity—they are the core. Outside them, what is salvation?

But the world itself is in disorder, wildly unequal, boundaries scrambled, and heating up. That is our world. Even in our secure and well-fed places, that world is out there, and all the principalities and powers want to redo it in their images.

How do we start? Well, several nights ago night a bunch of Presbyterians joined other activists to urge the Louisville City Council to raise the minimum wage—and it was raised! Not by enough, but a good step. Lots of signs, long debate, more work to do. But less poverty in Louisville in the near future.

What about those other countries? Well, Unbound will continue to invite articles and discussion, using the guidance of our church and other religious bodies and good souls.

Have a joyful Christmas! Worship well! Give generously!

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