Even though Christians make up less than 3 per cent of the population, Christmas in India is a significant event.” Churches hold services, Christmas carols are sung, and Christmas decorations adorn houses, streets, and marketplaces. However, most people overlook the fact that Indian Christians celebrate Christmas amid increasing hatred and hostility. 

Increased Hostility During Christmas

Christmas is a time of increasing hatred and hostility for Indian Christians. The sequence of events around 2022 lends credence to such perceived fears. Ahead of Christmas, hundreds of Christian tribal people were displaced from their native villages in Chhattisgarh.

This was not an isolated incident. Christian communities are regularly attacked during and after Christmas. One may recall, that a dispute over Christmas celebrations sparked the first wave of violence in Kandhamal district in 2007.” As we all know, the Indian Church is a ‘suffering Church’. 

Indian-Christian communities are akin to a tree cut down, their future uncertain, and their strength seemingly diminished. Is it possible for Indian Christians to remain hopeful in the face of hatred and hostility?

The Anticipation Of Hope

Advent is marked by the anticipation of hope.  In Isaiah 11:1, we find imagery of hope and renewal that speaks to situations of despair. It speaks powerfully into the Advent season, especially as we consider the experiences of our brothers and sisters in the suffering Church in India.

Like a branch that sprouts from a stump, someone from David’s family will someday be king Isaiah 11:1 (CEV)

Here the ‘stump of Jesse’ represents a seemingly hopeless and lifeless situation. However, the verse quickly turns to a message of unexpected hope: “A shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse; from his roots, a Branch will bear fruit.”

This shoot represents new life, emerging against all odds. It’s a powerful metaphor for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would come from David’s line and bring salvation and hope to all nations, including those who suffer for their faith.

Application To The Suffering Church In India:

In light of this promise, let’s consider its practical application to the Indian Church.

  1. Unwavering Hope

Firstly, like a new shoot emerging from a seemingly dead stump, the Church in India must remain unwavering in the face of persecution. The basis of this hope is not changing circumstances, but God’s unchanging promises.

  1. Resilience In Faith

The shoot growing from the stump symbolizes resilience. The Indian Church, therefore, is inspired to remain steadfast in faith during times of hardship. It is comforting to know that God often brings life and growth to the most unlikely places.

  1. The Promise Of Fruitfulness

Interestingly, the prophecy does not stop at the emergence of a shoot; it extends further, speaking of bearing fruit as well. Significantly, this symbolizes a promise to the Indian Church, assuring them that their suffering will not be in vain. Their unwavering steadfastness and resilient faith will bear fruit – profoundly impacting lives and communities for Christ.”

  1. The Incarnate Christ Is Our Hope.

Therefore, the ultimate fulfilment of this prophecy is in Jesus Christ. As the fundamental source of strength and hope, He empowers believers facing persecution. In Him, we find not only the courage to continue but also the strength to stand firm, and the comforting assurance of His presence in our struggles.

New Life, Resilience And Hope

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us remember our brothers and sisters in India. As a result of persecution, they might look like a ‘stump’ – cut down and seemingly lifeless. Nevertheless, the Lord’s promise stands firm.

In the incarnate Christ, there is always hope for revival and fruitfulness, even in the most challenging circumstances. From the stump, Christ’s glory will emerge. The Indian Church will experience new life, resilience, and hope through its suffering and witness.

Final Words

May the promise of Isaiah 11:1 be a source of strength and encouragement to the suffering Christian communities around the world, particularly in India. This Christmas, let us pray that the Church in India may hold fast to this promise and experience the reality of this shoot of hope in her life and witness.

Samuel Thambusamy is a PhD candidate with the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.