Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth and glad tidings to all! Merry Christmas!
This week, David Van Lian points to Christ, our Prince of Peace, as the hope of all who suffer in Myanmar and throughout the world.
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar shares borders with India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand. Around 68% of Myanmar’s 58 million people are ethnically Bamar, with 90% practicing Theravada Buddhism. Christians represent 6% of Myanmar’s population and usually belong to an ethnic minority group, such as the Chin, Kachin, Karen, or Karenni peoples. Muslims make up around 2% of Myanmar’s population and mostly belong to the Rohingya, Malay, Panthay, and Kamein peoples. Following violent attacks in 2017, around one million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar. Since the 2021 military coup, violent crackdowns and civil war have killed over 6,000 civilians and displaced nearly 2 million people within the nation. Almost three years later, the junta is struggling to control strategic border towns and curb military and police defections.
David is pursuing a PhD in New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary (Kentucky, USA). His research explores suffering and identity formation in 1 Peter. His scholarship is much needed in Myanmar, where religious and ethnic minorities face persecution amid military-sponsored Buddhist nationalism and Bamar supremacy. After graduation, David will return to teach at Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (MEGST) in Yangon, where he has taught New Testament since 2016. He will become one of only two New Testament scholars with a PhD at MEGST. David has also taught at Yangon Christian College and Seminary and served as the lead translator for the Burmese Contemporary Bible Translation Project of Biblica (International Bible Society). David and his wife Cho Cho Aye have two young children, Irene and Jaden.
David shares the following devotional and prayer requests:
Finding Hope Amid Suffering
Myanmar is currently experiencing political, social, and ethnic conflicts, which have a significant impact on the way we celebrate Christmas. As a result, this is a different Christmas than ever before.
During the Christmas season, we used to decorate our homes with Christmas images and put lights and stars on trees. We would go around to greet our Buddhist neighbors and friends by singing Christmas carols.
When I was young, my parents would buy new clothes for the whole year only during the Christmas season. I would wear new clothes only at Christmas and enjoy the occasion with my family and friends. Moreover, we would have a special morning service at church and a dinner party later.
So, Christmas was always the most exciting and awaited season. However, because of COVID-19 and the military coup, Christmas celebrations are restricted and have become minimal in the past two years.
Where can we find hope amid suffering in Myanmar? This is the question I ponder a lot, especially in this Christmas season. Let us turn our hearts to the words of Luke 2:8-14 (NIV):
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
In the hills of Bethlehem, shepherds were tending to their flocks by night when an angel appeared, announcing the birth of a Savior. These shepherds became witnesses to the newborn Messiah. Often marginalized in society, they received a divine message that would transform the world. The message of hope conveyed to the shepherds on that holy night echoes through the ages, offering solace to suffering people around the world today.
In Luke 2:10-11, we encounter the angel’s proclamation: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” These words serve as a beacon of hope in the face of challenges. The good news is not reserved for a select few but rather intended for all people, including those who bear the weight of suffering.
The birth of Jesus is the ultimate source of joy for all people. If we look around the world today, like in Bethlehem, we find darkness as political unrest, displacement, and human rights concerns cast shadows over the land. Yet, the Christmas story reminds us that light shines forth even in the darkest times. The birth of Jesus shines a light that pierces through despair, offering hope to those who feel lost amid conflicts and uncertainty.
The birth of Jesus reminds us that hope is not lost, not even in the bleakest circumstances. The angelic proclamation did not end with the solitary messenger. Suddenly, a heavenly host joined in, praising God and proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” This message of peace is not a distant dream but a promise for suffering people in the world today.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to bring reconciliation and harmony to a broken world. Christmas revolves around the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior whose arrival brought hope and renewal to the world. In our darkest moments, the birth of Jesus Christ reminds us that there is always hope and a path to a better tomorrow.
As we approach the Christmas season amid challenging and uncertain times, may the message of hope, proclaimed to the shepherds on that holy night, resonate in the hearts of those who are suffering due to political conflicts. May the light that shone in Bethlehem illuminate the path toward healing and restoration in today’s broken world.
(1) Myanmar is currently facing complex challenges, including political instability, human rights concerns, and fights between ethnic armed groups and the military regime. Please pray for peaceful resolution in Myanmar!
(2) Please pray for my mother school, Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (MEGST), to continue its mission during this national crisis!
(3) Please pray for my PhD journey at Asbury with my family!
David Van Lian