Category: Advent

Prayers4Peace: Intro to Advent 2023

Embodying God’s Peace this Advent
By Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, CMEP Executive Director

Recent history includes much sadness, devastation, and loss for many across the Middle East. In June of 2023, the Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, wrote: 

“I woke up almost every morning this past week and heard distressing news from Palestine and Israel. It is hard not to be discouraged… But in the midst of such news – we must remind ourselves that even when we cannot immediately see tangible results, our work continues to provide critical education, advocacy, and engagement in response to violence and oppression. We are motivated by our faith not to give up hope but to remain steadfast and diligent. I continue to say… ‘Despair is the luxury of the privileged.’ If our friends, colleagues, and partners in the Middle East continue to remain in situations of conflict and as they continue to pursue peaceful responses to human rights violations and violence – who are we to give up hope?”*

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Advent 2022: Christmas Day

Relinquishing the Status Quo
Kelley Nikondeha

We meet Joseph, a pious man, in the grip of a dilemma. According to Matthew, he discovered that the young woman he was betrothed to was already pregnant. Soon enough others would learn about his bride’s condition and it would reflect poorly on him one way or another. Likely, the situation kept him up for nights as he weighed his options. What is a righteous man to do in such a precarious situation?

There was a protocol in place for such a situation, a tradition to tell a good man like Joseph exactly what to do should he learn his betrothed was pregnant by another man before the final wedding ceremony. The man must go to the community elders in the public square and make known the situation. This would allow him to protect his reputation and keep his standing in the community. The man would then involve the woman’s family and compel them to return the bride price or impound the dowry. It was standard for the man to receive economic compensation under such circumstances. But this expected practice apparently did not sit well with Joseph.

He decided to handle his dilemma differently. He would divorce her quietly. He would do the necessary things privately. But he would not haul her or her family into the public spotlight and add to her humiliation. Joseph centered her in his personal deliberations – and those calculations challenged conventional expectations. He would not defend his reputation at the further expense of hers. He would forgo the financial recompense he was owed. Before an angel even spoke, we see Joseph as a deeply pious man in ways that would confound the expectations of his own community.

But his dilemma and decision were interrupted by a dream. An angel appeared amid his nocturnal tossing and turning to offer divine instruction. “Go ahead with the marriage, because it is God’s child she carries,” the messenger said. So when Joseph woke up, he took Mary home as his wife and entered into her shame, socially speaking. And when the child was born, he named him, functionally adopting him as his own son. Such an unexpected turn of events.

The first advent narrative reminds us that sometimes piety defies the expectations of our religious community, like it did for Joseph. Sometimes there is a deeper holiness – like centering the vulnerable ones, sacrificing financial gain, even accepting social stigma. When we remember that alongside the Jewish community in the Holy Land exist the Palestinian people – we often are at odds with our community. Too many of our religious and even political affiliations do not recognize the Palestinian people, their legitimate connection to the land, or their decades of loss. To consider them as anything other than terrorists can sometimes put us in line to be called antisemitic. But when we see both the Jewish and Palestinian communities and their deep heritage in the land, we are invited to enter into a solidarity that might cost us our reputation or more. And yet standing for God’s justice for all families in the land, be they Jewish or Palestinian, aligns with God’s invitation to a wider, more generous, and nonpartisan peace.

This Advent season is a good time to again
commit ourselves to God’s justice in the world,
even if it is unpopular and pushes us to
the margins of our social groups.
It is a good time to recommit to God’s jubilee,
which centers the vulnerable people
even if it costs us our reputation or some income.
It is a good time to remember that God’s peace comes
in unexpected ways, often reversing the status quo,
as Joseph embodied.

____

Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.


CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase


CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Advent 2022: Christmas Eve

Theological Reflection
Kelley Nikondeha

Two divinely announced sons, two unexpected pregnancies, and two mothers-to-be. Needless to say, Elizabeth and Mary had much to talk about during their three months together. Cloistered in the terraced town of Ein Kerem, the women shared daily chores and conversations about what was happening to them – and in them. Their bodies changed day by day, swelling to accommodate God’s work in them with literal force. The new trajectory of their stories took shape even before each began to show.

When Mary first arrived at her elder relative’s doorstep, her own pregnancy likely was not common knowledge. But Elizabeth’s child jumped in her belly, testifying to a holy presence among them. She sang out, “Blessed are you among women – and the fruit of your womb!” Not a random greeting, but a chorus heavy with history from Israel’s mighty women. Elizabeth echoed the words of warrior-judge Deborah, who sang the verse over Jael when she was victorious in war. And there are hints of the history that also connect with Judith from the Apocrypha, another woman who proved herself in battle on behalf of her people. The elder relative put Mary in esteemed company, recognizing that God was at work among them both.

The women had plenty of time to talk about the new turn in their lives. Walking to get water Elizabeth sang an old song by Hannah, another woman whose barrenness was broken by God’s goodness. She taught Mary about her story. They likely mused together over how God worked then, and continued to manifest similar mercies toward them both now. Maybe they sang together Miriam’s song of deliverance as they cut cucumbers and tore fresh herbs into a salad to bring to the dinner table. And maybe over dinner the conversation continued about possible connections between Miriam singing in the shadow of Pharaoh and how they now sang under Roman occupation.

Imagine Zechariah, silently listening as he ate. Was he surprised at their hunger for liberation, their insights on transformation? Or was he more stunned by their theological explorations – informed by knowledge of their ancestors and woven with their own real-time experience? Maybe his muting by the Spirit was not a punishment, but an opportunity for revelation. He witnessed the emergence of incarnation theology inaugurated by women. The quieted priest learned from the mothers of advent.

This Advent season we might all do well to watch the women in Israel-Palestine and see the ways they are forging peace. The Palestinian and Israeli mothers of the Parent’s Circle, where those bereft of children due to the conflict come together in shared grief, tell their stories together. Often times their hands are clasped together as they remember their children and speak hard and tender truths about the cost of violence in the land. They point a way forward for those willing to listen. Women activists are coming together from both sides of the Separation Wall to march for peace, reminding us that Elizabeth and Mary sang of a non-violent peace that broke with the warrior-mothers of old. These women, too, cry out for an end to violence and a new kind of peace across the region they share.

As we embody God’s peace campaign this advent,
we can learn from the first advent and listen to the wisdom
and experience of the women among us. The words of women
are integral to a full theology of incarnation
and understanding of what it means when we say
Immanuel, God is with us. Maybe we are those women –
and we must find the courage to say out loud what
the Spirit of God is doing in us. Maybe we have freedom songs
to sing for our communities, more verses to add
to Mother Mary’s Magnificat.

____

Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.


CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase


CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Advent 2022: Fourth Sunday

Collective Prayer
Kelley Nikondeha

Herod loomed large as the visible representative of Roman authority in Judea. Known for his cruelty to citizens and family alike, for his massive building campaigns to bring honor to Caesar and attention to himself, and for the creation of a surveillance state – he also threw the priesthood into precarity to serve his political agenda.

Zechariah lived in this fray. He was an ordinary priest, living outside of Jerusalem in a small village. Priests like him received small stipends, but surviving the uneven economy required them to supplement their income. When Zechariah was not instructing people in the ways of the Torah he worked alongside them harvesting olives, or at the wine press, or tending the groves of fruit trees in the terraced hills. A son would have been such a help at times like this, he must have mused more than once. But Elizabeth’s barrenness meant the struggle of provision fell on his aging shoulders alone.

And Herod made things more tenuous for Zechariah and his fellow priests amid that first advent. He moved around elite priests at his whim to serve his own purposes, which meant movement down the line for ordinary clerics like him. He never knew when he would be demoted or his stipend delayed or decreased. The instability of his priestly position meant he shared the economic duress of his neighbors.

He lived at the hinge between the elite priesthood in Jerusalem and the everyday Jew. He saw the excess of one and the need of the other. He knew intimately the stories of his neighbors, shared under the generous canopy of the fig trees as they sipped tea between their hours of labor in the fields and on the threshing floors. A bad harvest, sons migrating north looking for work, and the forfeiture of family land – he heard it all and took it to heart, as a community elder and good priest.

There is little doubt that the daily concerns carried by Zechariah’s neighbors shaped his prayers. When he prayed at home or in the Temple, he saw their faces. High priests might have had the luxury of disconnection from the anxieties of the people, but not an ordinary priest. So Zechariah did not have only or primarily a personal piety, but a faithful practice that embraced his neighbors.

Imagine if we prayed like Zechariah, allowing the injustices that impinge on our neighbors to be central as we pray for their relief.  We could pray for the end to systemic oppression — the dynamics that keep people without potable water, without access to ample food, or safe streets for their children. We might pray about economics structures that create a permanent poverty class, contra the jubilee aspirations of the prophets. We certainly could pray for occupations to end and for refugees to return home and know repatriation and reunion. We could pray for all threats so all could live in God’s peace.

The invitation to embody God’s peace campaign, in the Middle East or middle America, ought to reorient our advent prayers. Our petitions could be less about our individualistic concerns and center on the needs of our neighbors. This Advent we could pray with our neighbors, near and far, in mind. We can listen to the hardship our neighbors labor under and allow those very things to inform our prayers for the season.

The angel came to the Temple, but not to a high priest.
God’s messenger spoke to an ordinary priest who was
intimately acquainted with the pain of the region.
The seeds for God’s peace are in lowly places,
among those who struggle and pray for tangible relief.
May this shape our prayers this Advent.

____

Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.


CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase


CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Advent 2022: Third Sunday

Lament
Kelley Nikondeha

The days before the first advent were dark and loud with suffering. Empires pounded the land of Israel and Judea incessantly with militaristic campaigns and exploitive economics — so violent. No man, woman, or child was spared the trauma of successive invasions and mounting losses. Still, families tried to survive the punishing oppression with faith in God, despite the divine silence in the face of their pain. Loss and lament blanketed the landscape. For those who know Israel-Palestine today, it sounds all too familiar.

When the Seleucids terrorized the region and defiled the Temple, the books of I and II Maccabees tell us one priest and his sons stood up to the empire. But first came lament. Mattathias echoed the sentiment of Lamentations, the tour de force of grief in the aftermath of another empire, another season of terror, another time the Temple suffered sacrilege at the hands of foreigners. He joined the lament of his ancestors, mourning more loss and making his discontent known to God.

But when he could bear it no longer, he took matters into his own hands and lunged at a soldier. It triggered an armed revolt. And then the Maccabees experienced a victory characteristic of David’s defeat of Goliath. They rededicated the Temple – lighting the Eternal Flame and celebrating God’s presence among them once again. Hanukkah commemorates this season of liberation and light. But it was short-lived, because another empire was on the horizon.

There would be more Jewish suffering to come, at home and abroad, more reasons to lament. And as we consider the landscape of the first advent, and all those since, a tenor of lament still seems appropriate for lands riddled with injustice. And we know that Palestinian suffering would be added to the heaviness of the Holy Land, another catastrophe visited upon another people longing to live at peace in their ancestral land. So we can bring our grief over check-points, home demolitions, land disputes and water disparities to God. We can cry aloud about military campaigns targeting Gaza, suicide bombers in Israeli cities, conflicts around the Temple Mount and brutality in Hebron. Our lament is a holy response to the on-going pain and injustice of Israel-Palestine today.

When our Jewish friends light their Hanukkah candles remembering liberation from an imperial force, they also remind us of ancient atrocities that were the predicate to the first advent. Maybe the soft glow of their festival of light can allow us to enter advent with a deeper awareness of the pain of injustice and the desire for tangible freedom from all oppression. Perhaps as we light the candles of our advent wreaths, we can whisper our own lament in solidarity with so many trying to survive troubled times in the Holy Land and our own neighborhoods.

The Romans were a punishing presence in the region, ending Jewish self-rule and consigning Jerusalem to be a subject of the empire. But with Caesar came world peace, as he brought an end to all wars during his time and was hailed as the savior of the world. It is curious that God inaugurated a peace campaign at such a time in history, when peace had been achieved. Unless God’s peace campaign functioned as a critique of Caesar’s peace – revealing the world’s idea of peace as phony. Maybe violence to secure resources for the privileged few at the expense of the many was not what true peace looks like. Maybe economic exploitation, daily humiliation, and land forfeiture did not look like God’s kind of peace, either. And so the advent narratives in the gospels of Luke and Matthew would show us the seeds of God’s peace in Palestine and beyond.

We are invited to embody God’s peace campaign —
and lamenting the suffering caused by injustice is a good place to begin.
We join our Jewish brothers and sisters, who know too deeply the pain of generational trauma
and the incessant fear of annihilation.
We lock arms with our Palestinian siblings, so many living under active

occupation or living as refugees in the diaspora.
We add our lament to theirs and cry out for justice to come,
for suffering to cease, and for God’s peace to visit us all in lasting ways.

____

Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.


CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase


CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Advent 2022: Second Sunday of Advent

Following Stars Toward Hope
Kelley Nikondeha

Persia was one of the world’s first superpowers. But after 200 years Alexander the Great defeated them, ending their empire. Some Persians accepted their fate under Greek rule with all its accompanying Hellenistic influence, but others longed for independence from foreign domination. Among them – the magi. They were not just men of good counsel. They had knowledge of that natural world, were well-versed in the intricacies of society and people, which made them keen political operatives in the East. And they kept hope alive in Persia for a return to freedom.

They lived long under occupation, witnesses to the continued disintegration of Persian culture around them. They likely discerned that all the signs pointed in the direction of continued subjugation. Deep knowledge made the magi deeply aware that there was no end in sight. Hopelessness almost seemed like the wisest option. Until a star rose in the night sky – and so did their hopes.

These political pilgrims followed the star into enemy territory looking for hope that something new was underway, they were looking for a reason to keep hope alive. The star led them to Jerusalem, another city under occupation. As men esteemed beyond their borders, they entered the city and found Herod, the local ruler. But they were wise enough to know he was not the one they journeyed to find.

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” they asked. “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Herod, despite his extensive surveillance apparatus, did not see the star. And he, along with his functionaries, were troubled by talk of a newborn usurper. It was not lost on him that these politically astute men came into his palace not to honor him, but to find and worship another. They knew things that could upend his rule.

The star returned, guiding the magi to a small home in Bethlehem. And the magi worshipped the newborn king. But if it is not already clear – this was not a purely religious act. The word used for worship in Matthew’s gospel has more political freight to it, so the magi offered homage to a political superior. They found the true king of the Jews, and acted accordingly. They gave gifts. They gave honor. They dared to worship a rival ruler. Their brave journey west coupled with their discernment allowed them to witness the beginning of a new world order in Judea. In a sense, their resistance was rewarded. And if an indigenous leader could be restored in Judea, then it could happen anywhere – even in their Persian homeland. The magi returned home with visions of liberation for their land, too.

In occupied spaces, often our imagination is shut down. Hope is hard to hold on to when all you see is your world crumbling. But often it is the artists among us that stoke hope when our reserves are nearly empty. And Sliman Mansour, Palestinian artist of resistance, does this for the people of Palestine. His work keeps the story of his people alive, and points toward the hope that still exists in the soil of the land and the soil of their hearts. He paints resilient women, terraced olive tree groves, Palestinian families clad in kufiyahs. His work shows what is hard, but also where hope still resides. Like the magi of old, he is not shy naming occupation and pushing against it through his artwork. He is a star leading toward hope amid a hard landscape.

Joining the invitation to participate in God’s peace campaign includes following stars into unexpected, even hostile, territory to hunt for hope. It means embracing the truth that hope is not only on offer for our community, but for the wider world that God so loves. The first advent shows us that Judeans, Galileans, even Persians were beneficiaries of God’s peace invitation.

The star leads to hope for all occupied lands and all occupied peoples.


Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.


CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase


CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Advent 2022: First Sunday of Advent

Resisting Injustice
Kelley Nikondeha

Something was always happening in the Galilee – a military action, a protest, a confrontation provoked by local rebels. It was a region rife with resistance. The villages that dotted the undulating terrain refused to easily accept the Roman occupation. An incessant back and forth between the punishing imperial forces and the homegrown freedom fighters left a trail of dead men, enslaved children, and abused women. Because the empire did not easily accept rebellion, either.

This is the kind of landscape that shaped the likes of Ahed Tamimi in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. In a village that experienced almost daily acts of violence resulting in maimed, jailed, and even dead family members, this young girl and her siblings grew up with the realities of occupation. Their family home was under a demolition order for years, and soldiers regularly raided their house in the night. Her parents organized weekly protests against the Israeli soldiers and the Jewish settlers encroaching on their land. They modeled resistance for her. In the face of soldiers and settlers alike, you fight back. And one day she did. She had enough of the loss and injustice and she slapped a soldier standing in her front yard. Her image was painted on the Separation Wall in in Bethlehem and beamed across the world, making her an icon of resistance before she was even an adult.

It is fair to say that her life in the West Bank under occupation shaped her sensibilities and made her who she was in that moment — and for the rest of her life. One might wonder if growing up in Galilee had a similar effect on young Mary. Formed by Galilee, a witness to occupation and the fight against it, she was likely no shrinking violet. Instead of a slap, she responded with a song. Perhaps she took after her namesake, Miriam of Exodus, and composed songs for the freedom movement she and her neighbors were part of in their village. Maybe the Magnificat was not her only song. 

When we consider that first advent and Mary as part of the resistance movement of her day, given her geography, we can see another angle of her strength. She resisted injustice that impinged upon her and her community. She refused to accept the presence of Romans in her homeland – the tribute paid to Caesar that was an economic drain on her neighbors, the land confiscations robbing too many families of their God-given home, and the daily humiliations of living as a subjugated people. She knew this was not right according to Torah or any other standard of decency. And so she sang.

When we see injustice at home or abroad, may it move us like it moved Mary. May we resist all forms of discrimination, oppression, and harassment. May we advocate for the vulnerable ones in our communities – those who struggle with food insecurity or live with inadequate housing or try to survive on the underside of our economy. Let’s see the systemic injustices and address them for our neighbor, and for our own well-being, too. May we recognize those who are victims of oppression, like those in Gaza, the West Bank, and in refugee camps throughout the region. We can become activists for justice, working in solidarity with them for a future peace.

No one expected a girl from Galilee to step into God’s liberation story. And maybe no one expects us to show up and enter into God’s peace campaign. But like Mary, let’s do it anyway. Wherever we are from and however we’ve been formed, let’s determine to join God’s way of peace that reverses the expected violence of every empire.


Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.


CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase


CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.

Christmas Day: He will bring us goodness and light

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward all people (Luke 2:14).

Christmas has arrived! The hope of the living Messiah has come. Today, of all days, may we not be discouraged by the realities of this earthly world. Problems, conflict, and war continue to exist throughout the Middle East, but the good news remains – war does not have the final word. Rather today, we hold onto the hope of all the things the birth of Christ represents. 

He will bring us goodness and light. 

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Christmas Eve: A Child, a Child shivers in the cold… Let us bring him silver and gold

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.

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