Posted by: Titus Presler | December 21, 2011

“Christmas is a state of mind,” says Muslim student: Meditation for Advent IV Wednesday

“Christmas is not a time or season but a state of mind,” said the student master of ceremonies at today’s Christmas dinner for hostel residents at Edwardes College in Peshawar.  “Christmas calls for love in action,” he said, continuing, “Every time we give for the sake of others we are celebrating Christmas.  He who does not have Christmas in his heart will not find Christmas in a tree.”

Moving for me in these remarks was the understanding and appreciation that the student expressed for how Christians have come to understand the festival that signals the start of what we regard as the central act in God’s redemption of the cosmos, the Christ event.  Celebration, not dialogue was the purpose of the dinner, and here was a member of another religion, the majority religion in that setting, interpreting the ethical implications of Christmas in a way that most Christians would fine quite congenial. 

The event opened with a reading of Luke 2:1-20, the New Testament passage that recounts the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem and the coming of shepherds to the stable where the holy family was staying.  This was followed by a reading of Sura 19:16-34 from the Quran, which recounts a messenger announcing to Maryam that she would bear a son and then the birth itself.

The image of Mary holding onto the trunk of a date palm while in the pangs of childbirth and exclaiming, “Oh, that I had died ere this!” is quite affecting.  So is the voice the Quran says she then heard: “Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you, and shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you, and you will cause ripe dates to fall upon you.  So eat and drink and be consoled.”

Both the Biblical and Quranic narratives about Jesus’ birth stress that God was interested enough in humanity to intervene in history.  We learn that God is not distant, but close; not detached, but engaged.  God is passionate about restoring humanity to reconciled relationship with God.

Behind the ethical mandates noted by the student, we might say that the Christmas state of mind is one that is lives in expectation of God’s action, alert for signs of God’s action.  It is a state of mind then willing to join God in such action.

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