So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Read more
Psalm 80: 3, 6-7
Restore us, O God;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved. . . .
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors
and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors. Read more
“Yes, indeed—God is my salvation. I trust, I won’t be afraid. God—yes God!—is my strength and song, best of all, my salvation!” Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation. And as you do it, you’ll say, “Give thanks to God. Call out his name. Ask him anything! Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done, spread the news of his great reputation! “Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all! Let the whole earth know what he’s done!”
Isaiah 12:2-5 (MSG)
Take courage for there is joy in this life!
For many Christians observing the third week of Advent, they will read the words of the prophet Isaiah. These words call them to give thanks and praise to the Lord God, with a joy that springs forth from God’s “wells of salvation.” This good news of salvation became flesh with the birth of Jesus, entering into the lived reality of humanity on earth. Today, this call to joy is in the very practical act of collecting water. “Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation.” These words remind us that it is the fundamentals of being human that truly matter and are quite beautifully, enough. Read more
“[During] the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3.2-6
During the season of Advent, Christians across the world wait with eager expectation for the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. While we celebrate Jesus’ arrival and the ways in which he modeled how we are to live, it is no doubt troubling to many how far away we are from the peace Jesus preached. From the rise of white supremacy in the United States, to the continued conflicts in the Middle East, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction of Peace. For those of us committed to a just, lasting, and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Israel/Palestine, and throughout the Middle East; we might wonder if our efforts are in vain. Read more
In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior, Read more
Mary Davis is of Christian Palestinian heritage, born and raised in the United States. As a young child, she was disconnected from her culture, but during university decided to create a documentary on Christians in Palestine. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is pleased to share her story and documentary:
I grew up with a father who was ashamed of his Palestinian heritage. My mother, who is also half-Palestinian, left when I was five years old. I had no physical contact with her or her side of the family for over 17 years. I had a very interesting or, as I would describe, abusive childhood story, which resulted in me leaving home at 18 years old. I ended up finishing my high school education in the inner-city, around a dominant African American population. In my younger years, I found myself always searching for acceptance and my identity. Read more
So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Genesis 35:19-20
Today, Rachel’s Tomb lies adjacent to Checkpoint 300 (also known as the Gilo Checkpoint). Several thousand Palestinians must navigate this checkpoint between 4 am and 7 am each weekday (Sunday through Thursday, for the Muslim population), to reach their jobs on the other side of the Israeli separation barrier. At this hour, these people are almost all men.
Israel began creating checkpoints in the 1990s, with the stated goal of enhancing the security of Israel and Israeli settlements, following the March 1993 deaths of nine Israeli civilians and six members of the Israeli military. Read more
As a child, Bethlehem-born, Christian Palestinian Sami Awad watched as his uncle was arrested and then deported from Israel for participating in nonviolent resistance to the occupation during the First Intifada (uprising). Sami’s father, Bishara Awad, had become a refugee at the age of nine when his father was killed, and the family was forced out of their home in West Jerusalem in 1948. Sami grew up knowing these stories, past and present, experiencing historic pain as well as his own oppression. He began to examine the power of nonviolence but wondered whether he could truly love his enemies as his faith, and Jesus, commands in the Bible.
“Christians are called to be peacemakers. The Christian understanding of peacemaking is about how you bring communities together and build relationships of trust and respect between them. This is what Christ did. He went to these communities, he went to his enemies, and he engaged with them and never marginalized anybody. He had compassion, he had understanding, and he created a space for healing to take place.” Read more
”If your son didn’t come home from school and you heard he was arrested, who can you call? If your husband is from the West Bank and you have Jerusalem residency, how will you get the permits necessary to live together? If you are on your way to university abroad and are denied exit from the West Bank, how will you get to your studies?”
These are examples of the questions asked by thousands of people who turn to the work Jessica Montell does at HaMoked each year. Since September of 2017, Montell has served as Executive Director of the human rights NGO HaMoked, which assists Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, and the severe and ongoing violations of rights occupation causes. The organization provides free legal aid, works to change government and military policy, and upholds universal human rights principles. Read more
Amidst the daily realities of living under occupation, as the threat of demolition of homes and property hangs in the air, there are inspiring individuals and communities committed to peace. One example of such is peacemaker Tariq Hathaleen (24 years old), a Palestinian student who is working to finish his degree in English Education at a university in Hebron. Tariq is from Um El Kheir, a Bedouin Village in the South Hebron Hills, which is surrounded by a neighboring Israeli settlement, Carmel. Despite harassment by Carmel’s inhabitants, Tariq is committed to peace over hatred. He pursues further growth and development to serve his people in the interest of peace as his village continues to survive against all the odds. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is continually inspired by the work of young activists like Tariq as we continue to pursue a just peace for all living in the region. Read more