Thursday, December 25, 2014

Despair and hope

To be so hopeless and totally in despair...

That must have been how the Jews were feeling after having been subjugated by Rome. The utter humiliation of having these foreigners suddenly becoming your rulers, your leaders. They were a proud nation, definitely. For hundreds of years, they have felt so special as a people. They have had kings handpicked by their God to lead them to prosperity. They won battles, won lands and riches. That was their heritage. Because of that faith in their God.

All that is gone now. It has been decades since the last humiliating defeat. Yes, they retain their 'king', but he reigns and does not rule. A puppet of the Roman government to keep them at bay. But they are so far from what they were before, from what was promised to them. And it seems that there really is no relief from this.

They toil, daily. They labor under alien masters. But very little of what they reap and harvest, of what they produce actually becomes theirs. They are paid as taxes to the conquerors. And they can't complain. They are lucky to be kept alive anyway.

These are dark times. And though they are well-versed in the law and rules of conduct, they only have contempt for those who enforce their religion, those hypocritical religious elders. They see them corrupt, pandering to the Romans so they could keep their status in society, their wealth and their creature comforts. All the while, they help the Romans keep them at bay, to stop any insurrection. They use religion, the law of Moses to be submissive.

What hope is there? Why even bother to be good in these times? So they themselves lose their moral compass. It is survival. It is just a matter of getting by. And sometimes that would mean cheating a bit on the wages, or their collections. Or bribing themselves out of problems. They can't even turn to their elders for direction.

Dark times indeed. Even for those who still have some good in them, some sense of righteousness. Even for them, the flame glows weakly. It doesn't help them any to be moral and virtuous. The cunning ones, the ones that take advantage, these are the ones that thrive and prosper. So they are tempted on a daily basis. And as much as they want to believe in some good in others, they only see wretchedness.

Such hopeless times.

Yes, there used to be talk of someone who would bring them out of this slavery. Someone who will rule again with justice and might. Someone who will be able to a beacon for all them, a light in the darkness. He will establish the might of their nation and vanquish the tyrants. And goodness and right will be rewarded again. But talk of those prophecies have long since died. No one is coming. We are all doomed to die.

Especially for those at the lowest rungs of their hierarchical society, shepherds, farmers. What hope is there for them?

Then on a cold night, a flash of light, a brilliance engulfs them and fills them not with fear and dread, but of joy! They look about and see in fronf of them, men garbed in dazzling clothes, beautiful, a sight to behold. They could only be... angels! With the most beautiful voices.

Suddenly they are all around. And their leader, this head 'angel', approaches them and greets them. They feel so ashamed of the way they look, their smell, their clothes. But the angels have taken no notice of that. There is only just joy in their faces, in his face, in his smile, in his voice.

"I bring you good news! The prophecy is true, my friends! Yes, that old, old story of one who will be born to lead this nation into greatness again. He will destroy the shackles that bind you. He will free you from the oppressors. He will be a true leader, righteous and benevolent. That person is about to be born. The future king, your future king! I give you a sign: a virgin has given birth, the child-king wrapped in the most humble clothes is there! Go! Pay homage to him! God is no longer hiding and distant. God is with us!"

And for the first time in their lives, there is hope, real hope.

Merry Christmas! God is with us!

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