Lebanon, especially in the winter, have fallen off my list of favorites,
probably in no small part due to the lack of electricity we (and so many other
Lebanese) experience at home. The offices where I work close, meaning that our
building’s generator stays off. Our subscription for supplemental power covers only
about half of the day, anyway, bringing inside temperatures close to what is
outside. And municipal power supply continues to emulate Halley’s Comet in its rare
appearances. Combining all the national holidays with the ones of various religious
denominations, plus Armenian holidays, here in Lebanon we experience close to a
month each year of these “off” days.
A glimpse of Christmas joy in the
neighborhood, powered by
(30 Dec. 2022 - Geitawi, Beirut)
But there is another layer of distaste. Holidays are too often turned into platforms for social and political assertiveness, rather than times of rest, reflection, redirection and rededication. Firecrackers (and bullets) fill the air over neighborhoods where a particular holiday is most observed. Not to forget the obligatory firecrackers and fireworks launched at important life events, such as funerals and weddings, or your World Cup football team scoring a goal. We were able to watch three games of this year’s football “Mondial” in early December since we were visiting Armenia for a week. There, games were broadcast on Armenian state television for anyone to view. Here was a different story, as is the case with so many things. The sounds of firecrackers and nearby fans yelling would prompt us to refresh the official website in order to see the latest scores — a somewhat anticlimactic method.
In this particular season the biblical
phrase, “Peace on earth, good will towards men,” is widely touted, or more
commonly quoted simply as “Peace on earth”, without involving men (in the generic
sense) or good will. The more intricate version of Luke 2.14, “Peace on earth
among those with whom God is pleased,” is avoided, likely because it doesn’t
fit neatly into 21st century greeting cards (i.e., social media
platforms and posts), and likely also because it states that there is a
God, also implying that this God makes judgments. About us. Also not fitting popular
sensitivities in these oversensitive times.
Constructing the "New Year's tree" at the
Yerevan train station
(30 Nov. 2022 - Yerevan, Armenia)
Whether or not it plays well in mass
culture, a question sticks in my mind: With whom is God pleased these days? My
immediate guess is “no one”, as evidenced by the lack of peace on earth. The lofty
goal of peacemaking is left largely untouched, while nations allegedly aim for (but
fail to reach) the lower goal of temporary cease-fires. Yet even where
cease-fires are attained there are always those who find ways to continue their
A garden of Armenian letters seemingly
growing out of stones, hopefully an inspiration,
more than just a tourist attraction.
(29 Nov. 2022 - near Artashavan, Armenia)
Since mid-December and continuing into the New Year, Azerbaijan-sponsored phony “environmental activists” have been blocking the only lifeline for food or medicine or transit that Artsakh Armenians have, the “Lachin corridor” linking it to Armenia. Add to this the Azeri government and industries that are driving all of this, entities that blithely cut off energy supplies to Artsakh in the cold of winter. Add to this the inaction of those charged with keeping the road open, allowing the situation to be created. And finally add to this the meaningless verbal bravado (and little more) of world powers, busying themselves with statements and resolutions condemning the blockade, but unwilling to intervene in a sovereign country. If all of this looks and sounds like world powers’ failure to prevent the Genocide in 1915, there’s a good reason for that. Summing it all up, it immolates the dove of peace over the flames of war.
Peacemaking can be torn apart in
various ways: by individuals, societies, companies, governments, you name it.
It does not have to be done in the obtuse ways that Armenia’s rapacious neighbors
are so fond of. Sometimes it can be as subtle as tolerating inept (fill in the
name of your favorite country) governance, or by making self-centeredness and
self-indulgence a societal value, or in disdaining others in order to elevate
A mural depicting Old Beirut, in a park where
an old Beirut building was torn down.
(8 Dec. 2022 - Geitawi, Beirut)
Yet despite all attempts to kill it, peacemaking is alive, and peacemakers are at work. Whenever we hear about or witness a teacher who goes beyond the lesson plan and above the minimum requirements to help her class learn to relate with care for each other, there peace is being inculcated. Last week I was in a store in Bourj Hammoud when an older fellow in tattered clothes stood at the door with his hand raised in greeting - not for a handout. The Arab worker (who happens to speak Armenian) addressed him affectionately, giving and receiving words of blessing; this, too, is peace-building. When someone in the course of a conversation asks me to pray for him right there on the spot, God’s peace hovers over both of us and enables us to express more grace to others.
That message to the shepherds heralding
“peace” at Christ’s birth is more of a challenge to self-absorbed humanity than
a statement of present reality. The One whose appearance they announced made it
his aim to establish peace through servanthood and a particular act of
sacrifice. It grew more intense and pervasive as he grew “in stature and in God
and man’s favor” . We might strain to see those around us who join him in this
endeavor, but the thread that joins each instance together, shining with the
angelic light seen outside ancient Bethlehem, is that of service.
Christmas bazaar at the Zvartnots Center,
which brings hope and love to special needs
(22 Dec. 2022 - Nor Sis, Bourj Hammoud)
Serving others, motivated by love, produces peace. And only God himself can fill and refill that love.
Since “Armenian Christmas” is but
three days away, an Armenian greeting on the occasion and a wish for God-pleasing
peacemaking: Christ is born and revealed; blessed is the revelation of Christ!* [LNB]
LebCat 56: Since the electric company isn't
using these anyway, I'll just settle in.
(30 Dec. 2022 - Mar Mikhael, Beirut)
*Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ. օրհնեա՛լ է յայտնութիւնն Քրիստոսի։