The Word of God. The Messiah. The Son of Mary. The Honored One. The Messenger of God. The Sign of God. The Spirit of God. Do you recognize these titles? I know they are all given or at least proven in the Bible, but do you know why I chose this specific list and not some other Biblical titles? Perhaps I need to add a little more context.
When the angels said, ‘Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. – Quran: Surat al Imran 3:45
And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of God unto you, confirming that which was before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who comes after me, whose name is the Praised One. – Quran: Surat I-Saf 61:6
And Jesus shall be a known sign for the Hour. Therefore have no doubt concerning it. And follow Me! This is the Straight Path. Quran: Surat I-Sukh’ruf 43:61
Any good Muslim will tell you that they have nothing except the highest respect for Jesus (peace be upon him), and they will sincerely mean it. In most places of the Quran where Jesus is mentioned, it does speak of him with honor. If you were to go by the titles alone, Islam would claim that he is the greatest of the prophets. I have spoken with many Muslim friends who have fond memories of going to church on Christmas with their Syrian, or Coptic, or Catholic, or Protestant friends and neighbors. There will be many more Muslims of both Turkish and Arabic language origin who will be attending our Christmas Eve services. As one Muslim website puts it: “Regardless of historical facts and theological differences Muslims may have with Christianity we cannot disregard the sentiments of practicing Christians who use this occasion to revere Jesus.”
The biggest bone most Muslims would pick with Christmas has little to do with Christ Himself and much more to do with the date on which we celebrate. They will point to Saturnalia, Deus Natalis Sol Invictus, and other pagan holidays that fell around the winter solstice as a reason not to celebrate Christmas. They also speak of the Annunciation and the virgin birth in the Quran. Granted, right after that baby Jesus is giving a speech in the Temple but doesn’t that just prove how great Jesus was?
So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?”
He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet.
He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and charity so long as I live.
He has commanded me to be good to my parents and has not made me an arrogant rebellious person.
I was born with peace and I shall die and be brought to life again.
Such was the true story of Jesus, the son of Mary, about which they dispute bitterly. – Quran Surat Maryam 19:29-34
Yes, you read that right. The Quran says that Jesus was born of a virgin. It also says that Jesus Himself prophesies that he will die and rise again. So if you have a Muslim friend, I would strongly encourage you to invite them to your Christmas celebrations. Buy them a present. Have them over for your dinner. Bring them along to your Christmas service, or Christmas Eve mass. However you celebrate, open your circle a little wider. And if you have a Muslim neighbor or co-worker, make them your friend. The Bible says that others will know that we are followers of Jesus by our love. Do the Muslims in your community know it by your love?
Also, if you are a Muslim reading this. Thank you. If you have read this Christmas devotional from the start, then I would guess that there is a lot we would disagree on. Thank you for showing the respect to continue to read on through those differences. There are still three more songs to go and my hope and prayer is that you will keep on reading right until the end. Please know that I agree with you on the date. I am fully aware that Jesus was not born on December 25. Neither your book nor mine gives us a date as to when he was born. So while there is no historical reason for this day above any other, why not celebrate at the time when most of the world this year and throughout history have honored and remembered the birth of Isa (PBUH). Please feel free to join with your brothers and sisters of the book. After all, as your own book states:
We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. One day they will all return to their Lord who will inform them of all that they have done. (6:108)
See you tomorrow.