As we read the Gospel stories about Jesus’ birth and childhood, we find King Herod learning from the Magi that the promised one, born king of the Jews, had been born (Matthew 2:1-6). The announcement of the long-awaited’s birth was not joyous news to this earthly king. On the contrary, the advent of this young child posed a significant threat to Herod’s power and position and led him to terrible pronouncements that altered a generation. Herod’s fear manifested in his order that all boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity, two years old and under, be killed (Matthew 2:16).
When faced with the fear of losing their power and comfort, leaders and the privileged often lose sight of the broader picture. This was true in ancient times, as it remains true today in current politics, business, kingdoms, nations, neighborhoods, and even our faith communities. The “us and them” mentality presents a false dichotomy. There is only “us” – all of God’s children – a grand reality that those with wealth and influence still belong to those who are vulnerable, underserved, without voice or platform.
Our theme this Advent season has been Do you hear what I hear? And we have asked questions about what many perspectives and sides of the stories people often ignore? At Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), one of our commitments is to elevate the voices from the Middle East that often go unheard. Palestinian Christians and others frequently tell us their first request is that the church in the United States might know that they exist.
We have journeyed together through the song that continues highlighting A star, a star, dancing in the night… There are so many glimmers of hope coming from the Middle East. Men and women who have sacrificed greatly to be prophetic voices for advocacy and justice. Christians who remain steadfast in their faith and also their commitment to endure suffering despite their current realities. Displaced people and families who do not give up hope but continue to survive and exist represent the glimmer of hope the Christmas star represents.
A song… with a voice as big as a sea. We celebrate the voices of our friends and partners in the Middle East. May their stories and experiences compel our advocacy and motivate us to stay engaged, even when progress seems remarkably slow. Like a song, the faithfulness of people in the Middle East inspires us in our efforts to advocate for change in U.S. policies.
Do you know what I know? Now that we are learning about these realities, we commit to speaking truth to power. We will maintain a posture of humility and learning but continue to take positive steps forward toward justice and ultimately hope for reconciliation and peace.
The following line of the song says: A child, a child, shivers in the cold… let us bring him silver and gold. Let us bring him silver and gold.
For generations, the Jews awaited the coming Messiah, looking for a king who would come as a political ruler with status like the earthly kings they saw around them. Not as a humble servant, the son of an unwed mother, raised by a laborer from Nazareth. What a plot twist that Jesus, the Son of God, Immanuel, Prince of Peace was born in a manner so “other” than what people expected. And yet, the shepherds found the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger, and suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
The good news of this Christmas season remains that hope has come. From the most unexpected and humble of beginnings, the Messiah was born in Bethlehem. A star announced his arrival and gave hope to all who saw its light. Christmas will soon be here.
As Christmas approaches, we hold in our hearts our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Middle East. May they know we keep them in our hearts. As we turn our eyes toward Bethlehem, the center of Christian Palestine, we remember both the city where Christ was born and the current realities affecting all of the Palestinians who live there today. We end this day in the hope of what Christmas tomorrow will bring. The Prince of Peace came into the world to conquer injustice and ensure that darkness would not have the final victory. We hold onto this truth. In the name of the Christ child, we pray.
Written by Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon and Rev. Aune Carlson
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