Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel

As last year, it is utterly fascinating to spend the Advent & Christmas season here in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem area!

Going with the children to a St. Martin parade through the maristan of Jerusalem’s old town, Advent Market in a crusader era cloister, visiting the Shepard’s Fields with friends from Switzerland but also celebrating Hanukka with Jewish friends. For Christmas, we are planning to join a night pilgrimage from Jerusalem to Bethlehem organized by Redeemer Church.

In all this folklore focused on having a nice time with the family, it is so easy to forget what Christmas really was about – the account of Christmas according Matthew and Luke has more to do with a current Syrian refugee story – internal displacement due to the Roman occupation, massive violence from king Herod and becoming a refugee in Egypt – than what we made of it (family, delicious food, Christmas tree & gifts).

Theologian Walter Bruggemann underlines that advent is spiritually at least to some extent a violent act, a new spiritual reality enters the world threatening the powers in place. “…Our preparation for Christmas is not a safe, private or even familial enterprise but is preoccupied with great public issues of war and peace and issues of… justice that concern the worth and… wellbeing of human persons. Advent is a time for being addressed from elsewhere and being unsettled.”

As we continue to interpret and communicate our research findings in the light of differing theories between group and individual self, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels: our target group facing in several ways comparable events forced upon them by another entity, feelings of unfairness and humiliation triggering questions around the appropriate response based on one’s own identity.

In this Christmas season as well as beyond let’s continue to be unsettled and work diligently towards “glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, and good will toward men.”