As the advent season is coming up, we began to discuss as a family about who we will invite and host for Christmas in our home. Usually, this is a much easier process since we do not need to take in COVID-19 considerations. But now we need to think about group gatherings, limited people and general cautions. This year, we wanted to focus on the people around us who could not travel back home or do not have a family due to COVID-19 restrictions. As Christians, many of us will be thinking of doing the same, as the Christmas message includes showing solidarity with the marginalised, weak, poor and ignored.
With that said, our solidarity can often be superficial. During the Christmas period we may invite people we know, get along with or feel comfortable around. The narrative of the Christmas story can certainly challenge the limit of our solidarity with other people, and especially with those who are dismissed.
There are many obstacles for us to express the same solidarity Christ showed in his birth. Maybe we do not want to feel the pain of such acts or feel that we lost something. That is why many of us show solidarity when it suits us and does not threaten our livelihood. This can be expressed by only giving things we do not want or can afford to lose. We do not want to lose our power or privilege. Likewise, we do not want to be branded as poor, weak, marginalised or oppressed ourselves.
Moreover, when we show solidarity in a charged political, social and religious context like Palestine and Israel (and indeed in other contexts as well), this forces us to show solidarity with the ultimate ‘other’. This challenge threatens our identity, for in many cases, we build our identities on the expense of others around us. We construct our social, national and religious identity to be superior to all other identities around us. However, by showing a Christmas-like solidarity we are forced to compromise our distinctive identity and humanise the ‘other’. We can no longer see the ‘other’ as inferior, but become united with them in solidarity. True solidarity deeply challenges who we are.
Only by humanising the ‘other’ do we truly understand what solidarity means in the Christmas story. This theme can also found in the parable of the Good Samaritan. One of the messages of the story is the fact that the man on the road was beaten, dirty and naked. In other words, people could not distinguish who he was and what he did. Was he a Jew or a Samaritan? Or possibly someone else? Did he commit a crime or was he innocent? Jesus forces the audience around him to humanise the man, and to see him as human first without any added constructed identities. And only because he was a human are we obligated to show solidarity to him.
The birth of Christ teaches a similar message. Christ revealed himself as a vulnerable baby, with no power or position. He showed solidarity with the marginalised, weak and poor by becoming marginalised, weak and poor. Let us enter the Christmas period by reflecting on the limits of our solidarity and attempt to imitate the one true King who turned the world upside-down.
Musalaha Executive Director — Salim J. Munayer