Category: Advent

Uniting Christians in the Holy Land, Middle East Council of Churches

The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is a council of church bodies throughout the Middle East: Lebanon, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. In some ways, it’s like an extended family gathering. In fact, the MECC is organized around four families of churches – Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical/Protestant. Together, these churches are working to support each other and build bridges between people and groups in the Middle East.

MECC was founded in 1974 as a collaboration between the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant churches of the region. The Catholic church joined in 1990 as a fourth tradition on the council. Each of these four “ecclesial families” is represented by a president and members on MECC’s executive committee. Working as an ecumenical group is not always easy, and building a consensus among the different churches can be a long process. But the result is that MECC can offer powerful statements that carry the weight of their shared deliberation. Fr. Michel Jalakh is Secretary General of the Council, with the headquarters located in Beirut, Lebanon.
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Third Sunday of Advent: Choose Hope

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
(Luke 1:46b-55)

In observance of the third week of Advent, many Christians around the world will read the Magnificat, Mary’s song of joy. It may feel wrong to focus on the theme of joy during a time with so much turmoil, especially following the recent declaration about the status of Jerusalem. However, in light of the declaration and the events that followed, it is even more pressing that we take a moment to reflect on this theme, as we continue to Choose Hope this Advent. We do not put aside our anger, frustration, or fear, but allow joy to permeate our hearts as we anticipate the coming of Jesus. Read more

Second Sunday of Advent: Choose Hope

The Advent season is the time when we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus. Isaiah 9:6 says:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Yet when we look at the Middle East today, peace seems to be absent, if not impossible to achieve. The brutal civil war in Syria, the destructive actions of ISIS, and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians are just a few reasons why peace seems so far away. This past week, President Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the Capital of Israel without regard for final status negotiations or the aspirations of the Palestinians, contributes to this chaos. Read more

First Sunday of Advent: Choose Hope

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. Read more

Advent Devotion II: Light of the World

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

The Christmas season is full of light – sparkling lights on the Christmas tree; houses in the neighborhood decorated with lights for the coming holiday; candles flickering on the mantle; a fire in the fireplace representing warmth, comfort, and hope. These are the images of light we will hold onto this Advent season.
And we hold these images as hope not only for our own lives; but for the lives of those suffering in Palestine, Israel, the Middle East, and around the world. We remember in our prayers this week:
  • The men, women, and children who are living in Gaza; often with only a few hours of electricity per day.
  • The 60,000 internally displaced persons in Gaza still waiting for a durable housing solution since the destruction of their homes during the 2014 Gaza War.
  • The families affected by the 155 demolitions or confiscations of Palestinian owned structures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank during September and October 2016.
  • Those affected by the terrible fires throughout Israel and the West Bank that destroyed hundreds of homes, displacing tens of thousands.

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Light Shines in Darkness

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In him was life, and that life was the light of the people.
The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

Advent is a season of waiting. The anticipation of things to come. The desperate hope that the darkness of the world is not the end of the story; but one day light will prevail.

For those invested and paying attention to the political realities of the Middle East, often darkness seems to rule the day. There is much darkness to lament ~

The darkness of the Syrian conflict that has raged for more than half a decade and has resulted in the displacement and death of millions…

The darkness of the genocide of Christians and minority groups such as the Yazidis in Iraq and surrounding nations at the hands of Islamic extremists and other militant groups …

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