Christmas Day: On toward Bethlehem…The Messiah Has Come!

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.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 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.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Luke 2:4-18

This Advent, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) chose the theme Take Courage. This past year has marked numerous challenges in the political pursuit of a just peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the broader Middle East. Marked challenges have peppered the landscape of the Middle East: The Palestinian people continue to suffer under a several decades long military occupation; the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has reached devastating proportions and marks one of the worst man-made crises of our time; Civil War continues to rage in Syria; and it seems peace is no where on the horizon.

What does the Good News of Christmas remind us as we desperately long for a different reality? The birth of Jesus reminds us, just as the message given to the shepherds that fateful night…Take courage. Those tending their flocks were “terrified” in the midst of their current reality; but the angel reminded them that Good News had come in the birth of a Savior. Jesus had come.

This Christmas we rest in the joy of the Good News that the Messiah has come. The dark realities of brokenness in this world are not the end of the story; rather unto us a Savior has been born. This Good News encourages us to Take Courage…  And in the midst of injustice, we shall not be afraid… but rather, in the midst of injustice, we will continue to diligently advocate for peace.

An Advent Litany

Leader: It is Advent, and we wait and hope for peace and love.
Response: We are on our way to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born.
Leader: Mary, overshadowed by God, says, “I am your servant; let it be to me according to your word.”
Response: We are on our way to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born.
Leader: Mary and Joseph travel and arrive weary and unwelcomed.
Response: We are on our way to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born.
Leader: Bethlehem this Advent is weary and anxious in the shadow of the high dividing wall.
Response: We are on our way to Bethlehem, where Jesus will be born.
Leader: We in the world have lost our way. We need a Savior and Shepherd and Healer.
Response: Overshadow this world, O God, with your power and love.
Leader: Come, Lord Jesus, and bring peace in Israel and Palestine, and in every broken place.
Response: We pray for your birthplace as we make our way to Bethlehem.
Leader: Shatter darkness with your light as you come to gather, heal and save us.
Response: Come, Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace.

-Litany written by United Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward

Note: Ten women bishops on a “Pilgrimage for Understanding & Peace” in the Holy Land in November 2011 visited places where Jesus lived and walked: Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth. Because they were in the Holy Land just prior to Advent, they offered the following litany as a gift to the Church for use in local congregations during the Advent season.

Learn more about our Advent 2018 opportunities.