In the season of Advent, the Christian community around the world anticipates with great expectation the birth of Christ. Yes, Christ came 2,000 years ago, but we observe his birth today to remember there are still areas of the world where it feels as though he has not yet come. There is still so much pain, suffering, and loss. It is easy to see the challenges and brokenness in the Holy Land, particularly the situation of Christians in the broader Middle East, as those types of places.
This Advent – as we observe a time of waiting and wondering in a world filled with very real pain, suffering, and loss – we invite you to Choose Hope. While optimism falters in the face of these realities, we know Christmas will arrive and Emmanuel, God with us, will be born. We Choose Hope not because we ignore the realities of pain and conflict, but because we know that Emmanuel walks with us as we do the work of peace and justice God has called all of us to do.
This First Sunday of Advent, as we light the candle of hope, we turn our eyes to the Holy Land. There are an estimated 38,000 Christians living in the not-so-little town of Bethlehem many of us will sing about in our worship services during this season. When asked when they became Christians, the response of believers there today is often “2,000 years ago.” Yet, Palestinian and other Arab Christians are often forgotten by the Christian community in other parts of the world, especially here in the United States. In an article in The Washington Post last year, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian wrote, “by forgetting their Palestinian coreligionists, American Christians aren’t just missing the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they are missing an opportunity to live out the message of peace that Jesus, born in Bethlehem, gave to the world.” We must not forget these siblings in Christ. We remember Jesus, our greatest hope, was born in Bethlehem. And as we do so we also remember those people who witnessed his birth and his life, who told their families and communities. It is because of them that we are here today.
So, we remember our siblings in Christ in Bethlehem, and we Choose Hope. To Choose Hope is not to ignore their pain and suffering, or to simply send our best wishes. To Choose Hope is to recognize the truth of their situation, and actively hope toward peace and work toward justice.
As we await the birth of Jesus, we pray for Palestinian and Arab Christians – and all Christians in the Middle East – especially those living in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Teach us what it means to actively hope alongside Christians in the Holy Land. Teach us to diligently pursue peace and work for justice.
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This devotion was written by Molly Lorden, the Millennial Engagement Coordinator at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). She is also currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.
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