“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Jesus has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
In keeping with the traditional celebration of Jesus by his congregation, which is what Christ’s Mass might literally mean, (Christ’s Congregation), it seems fitting that not only should his (Jesus’) congregation remember him, but that perhaps, we might all spend, at least this season, remembering Jesus through his teachings. The New Testament of the Holy Bible might be the most reliable record of these teachings, and may also be a type of media. It conveys a message, even though its message is not necessarily conveyed through radio, or TV.
Interestingly, here in the United States, in a nation founded by men who primarily adhered to the Christian faith, very little attention is given to the teachings of the prophet who brought to mankind the ideals that kindled the desire for individual freedom. It was these “religious” ideals, that became a revolution which birthed this republic and caused it to be notable among noted societies. The Founders of the nation built their revolution on the principles of liberty and freedom as they were taught in the Bible, in fact in the New Testament. It doesn’t seem especially important during this season, of Christ’s Mass, that the United States is now a peculiar type of secular country. The United States has become a country where its citizens are denied the right to place a créche symbolizing the birth of Jesus,’ in a public square. We can display secular icons, even if they represent a religious idea, or people, that reflect what are deemed “secular” ideals, ! which means essentially, “no God.” The strength of the secular symbol, in the eyes of those who argue for its legality, is that it might signify a dreamed of triumph over a public God, thereby securing a distance between the Church and the state. It prematurely boasts of a victory over a nation founded in God’s name, by religious men, that is now dominated by people who perhaps worship so many gods, that One God seems a sort of tyranny, or totalitarianism. This raises the question as to whether or not the secular religion is more adept at governance? Has it understood itself to have a greater right to dictate the terms of a constitution drafted in recognition of God’s creative nature, and the human beings inalienable rights, as bestowed by God?
Anyway, this is for those who do believe in the One God of Abraham, and who are monotheists. Men and women who worship God, and serve Him, regardless of which of the Books or prophet we profess to follow. Who can ignore that Jesus Christ and what he taught had an extremely profound effect on the lives of his followers, and others. Through his teachings he shaped the era in which he lived, and the future of an entire world, since what he taught permeated time and space by taking root in hearts, thereby bringing to life the Word, through the actions of those who believed, and who continue to believe. We have turned a blind eye to the many atrocities carried out falsely in his name, as there have also been many carried out in the names of God and other prophets, Muhammad and Moses, that are not consistent with the teachings of either. It seems, appropriate then, that since this season has been traditionally dedicated to the memory of Jesus Christ, that we all r! emember him.
The Qur’an introduces us to Jesus (as) saying: ” Behold, the angels said: ” Oh Mary, God has chosen you, and purified you, chosen you above all the women of the nations. Oh Mary, worship thy Lord devoutly, prostrate yourself in prayer, with those who prostrate themselves before God.” Then it says further, ” Oh Mary, God give thee Glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Christ Jesus the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter, and of the company of those nearest to God. He shall speak to the people, in childhood and in maturity, and shall be of the company of the righteous. She (Mary) said, “Oh my Lord, how shall I have a son when no man has touched me?” He (God) said, “Even so, God creates what He wills. When He has decreed a plan, He but says, “Be” and it is! And God will teach him The Book, The Law and the Gospel” (Holy Qur’an, 3:42-48).
In the New Testament book of Ephesians, there is a beautiful tribute to Jesus’ teachings, in Chapters 3: 19-22, Chapter 4, verses 17- 31 and 5:1,
“Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. In whom all the building fitly framed together grows into a Holy House unto the Lord, in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.”
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you heretofore walk not as the ignorant walk, in the vanity of their minds. Their understanding is darkened, being alienated from the life of God by ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their hearts. Who, having giving themselves over to lasciviousness, work uncleanness and greediness. You have not learned this from Jesus Christ. If you have heard Jesus, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, put off concerning the former conversation the old, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit. “
“Put on the new man, which following the way of God is patterned after righteousness and true holiness. Put away lying, and speak every man the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be you angry, but do not sin, and let not the sun go down upon your wrath, neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole, steal no more, but rather let him work, working with his hands the thing that is good, so that he will have something good to share with the needy. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good should proceed, Praising God, and ministering to hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with malice. And be you kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God for Jesus’ sake has forgiven you. Be you therefore followers of God as dear children! , and walk in love as Christ also has lovedé”
Christ’s Disciple Peter wrote a most eloquent and heartrending sermon in his first missive to the original congregation of Christ. This first congregation was an admixture of newly converted Gentiles, Romans and Greeks, led by the Apostle Peter, and it included other Hebrews, Arabs, and men from throughout the world as it was known at that time, of various languages and hues. This is made clear in the Book of Acts, Chapter2, verses 1-11, where it says:
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance. And there was dwelling at that time in Jerusalem, Jews, and devout men out of every nation under heaven. Now when this news was spread abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded because every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, behold, are not all of these Galatians? And how do we hear every man in our own tongue? Parithians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers of Mesopotamia, and from Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphy! lia in Egypt, and in parts of Libya, and Cyrene and strangers from Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues, the wonders of the works of Jesus.”
In “First Peter,” the Apostle Peter called all men and women to obedience to God and the newness in spirit of newborn babes, made possible through the teachings of Jesus, who taught redemption of the human soul through the removal of racism, and exclusivism and chauvinism, sexism, and self. If we believe that mankind is motivated by self-interest, we can imagine that what God and the prophets who preached His word, may have challenged us to do, is to set-aside our selfish interest, and to dedicate our lives instead to the pursuit of God’s interest. The journey through life, in such an instance, might then be mainly preoccupied with seeking to know, and understand God’s message. Learning to distinguish God’s Will from our desires, while training the soul to submit to God’s command, being purified of evil desire, so it will stop commanding, since it has no right to command. The Disciple Peter wrote about this in Chapter 2, verse 9 saying:
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if you have tasted that the Lord God is Gracious. And Jesus came to you as a living stone, one rejected by the world, yet chosen by God and precious. And you, also are as lively stones, and are built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, (good deeds) acceptable to God through Jesus. The disciple Peter said further in the same chapter, verse 9, ” But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; in that you show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
Merry Christmas! To the Congregation of Christ Jesus, those who follow the scripture, remember Jesus as a servant of God, and who celebrate his memory and who follow his path. It is the path of prophets and good and faithful men and women of many faiths, all united in the worship of One God. Men and women who have forsaken the self-interest, the cursed idols “me” and “I”, and who have taken up their cross, became “we” and then embarked upon the journey, turned towards God.
” Behold, God took the covenant of the prophets saying: I give you a Book, and wisdom. There comes to you (mankind) a messenger, confirming what is with you, do you believe in him, and render him help. God said: “Do you agree, and take this my covenant as binding upon you? They said: “We agree.” He (God) said, Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.” If any turn back after this, they are perverted transgressors.”
“Do they seek other than the religion of God? While all creatures on earth have willingly or unwillingly bowed to His will and to Him will we all be brought back?
Say: ” We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Issac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in the Books given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to God do we bow our will in submission,” (Holy Qur’an, Chapter 3, Ali Imran, The Family of Imran, verses 81-84).
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women. The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians.