Unsettling Advent 2022, Day 7 - Word&Way

Unsettling Advent 2022, Day 7

We are used to the fact that Christmas is a bright, joyful holiday. But not on the day Jesus came into the world. And also not for Ukrainians this year.

The Roman Empire took away freedom from the people of Israel. Colossal Russia is trying to deprive meager Ukraine of freedom. That is why we suffer from military aggression. We are afraid of subjugation and therefore suffer hardships and fight.

Mary and Joseph were in search of a place at an inn. Millions of Ukrainians are searching for places because they have become refugees. The war took their home and they became homeless. So every day is filled with despair.

Mad Herod ordered to kill all the babies in Bethlehem. The whole city was drowned in tears. Mad Putin ordered to kill all of us. And that is why we cry for the killed Ukrainians, we cry for the Christians who are tortured and killed, we cry for the women who were raped by Russian soldiers, we cry for the children who died from Russian missiles, we cry for the destroyed cities.

Ammunition boxes lay outside a destroyed school on the outskirts of a recently liberated village near Kherson, Ukraine, on Nov. 16, 2022. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

Christmas took place at night. And then when Jesus was born there were no garlands, Christmas illuminations, or fireworks. As if thick darkness tried to stop the birth of light.

The energy system of Ukraine has been destroyed by rocket strikes. Every day we suffer from a lack of electricity. Our cities no longer glow. Our windows are dark. The heating does not work. No water. And the worst thing is when our connection to others is lost.

But we keep on fighting! Our strength is our faith! Our meaning is the gospel! Our consolation is the words and prayers of our friends, Christians who live far from us but remember, pray, and support! Our light is our hope! Our joy is to see people in whose hearts Jesus is born.

During these few months of the war, I saw more repentance than in 20 years of my pastoral ministry. This is the joy of our Christmas! This is the light of our Christmas! And so we continue to live and fight with hope!

We believe in the Ukrainian sunrise. A new bright and warm day will come. Glory Day. Remember Ukraine in prayer on the day you celebrate Christmas! And so we will be together, in the same spirit as a church of merciful God!

Elisey Pronin is a professor at Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary in Lviv, Ukraine, and pastors a church in Lviv. He previously pastored a church in eastern Ukraine that was destroyed when Russian-backed separatists took over the region in 2014. He spoke about that experience in a 2018 Word&Way podcast and he wrote about it in his book Chronicles of Undeclared War.