Prayers4Peace: Christmas Day, Advent 2023

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In Everlasting Light, Justice Shines, Sunday Devotional for Advent 2023
Written by Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, CMEP’s Executive Director

Readings:

Isaiah 62:6-12 | Psalm 97 | Titus 3:4-7 | Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20

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.” (Luke 2:8-15)

The hope of Christmas morning is the Good News that light prevails in darkness. Today, we celebrate the nativity story and the birth of a young child in Bethlehem named Immanuel, reminding us that “God is with us.” In the world’s darkness, the Christ child brought us everlasting light that overcomes the darkness. 

When we consider our progress toward Middle East peace – particularly as it relates to ending the occupation of the Palestinian people, the ongoing economic crisis in Lebanon, the eroding democracy in Israel, the decades of control of Syria by a despotic regime, the devastating famine in Yemen… much darkness pervades. This year has been full of dark times in the Middle East. But at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), we hold onto hope in the everlasting light that darkness is not the end of the story, but rather … in everlasting light, justice shines

This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are reminded that our work is not in vain. We may not see the progress we desire here at this very moment. From an earthly perspective, it seems like darkness has overtaken us. But we know, believe, and hold onto hope that peace is possible and that justice will prevail. We remain steadfast and committed as we pray for peace and work toward justice. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., the great preacher and civil rights activist, reminds us that: 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

The greatest love ever known to the earth exemplified itself in the person of Jesus, born to the earth for the forgiveness of humanity. During the Roman occupation, when the Christ child was born, a light in the sky marked the place of his birth over Bethlehem, reminding the people that hope had come. Luke 7:14 tells of how angels and heavenly messengers appeared, saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward all people.” 

This Christmas Day, we celebrate the Good News of the birth of a Savior, the everlasting light, who would bring darkness to an end. Let us not be overcome by the darkness. We are motivated by the brokenness we experience and witness. We grieve the realities we learn about from partners on the ground in the Holy Land, the Levant, and other parts of the Arab world – economic devastation, food insecurity, conflict and war, violence and militarization, land confiscation, home demolitions, political unrest, and destabilization. These are just some types of injustices perpetuating today in the Middle East. 

Christmas reminds us that the future can hold a different reality – where all people could have access to peaceful, prosperous societies full of life, with the potential for human flourishing where all might feel safe, warm, and secure. 

This Christmas morning, let us take a moment to reflect on the hope inherent in everlasting light. Take a moment, a few minutes of silence during the day, or take a minute amid the chaos of a family gathering. Whether in silence or with others – I hope you find time to reflect on the gift of Jesus showing up on earth and what that means for us who seek peace and justice. 

Reflection: 
Pray with me. Take as long as you need after each thought to pray and reflect. 

We, too, must wait in hope for the coming of the Good News of the Messiah in the brokenness of the world today… 

We, too, must wait… 

We wait upon the Lord to see justice for the oppressed . . .

We wait upon the Lord to feel hope in our despair . . .

We wait for the everlasting light of God to shine and break into the darkness of the world…

We wait and hold onto hope for peace in the Middle East. . .

We wait also for Him to return. . . that in His coming, the Messiah will bring everlasting light to the world and make the world right.


About the Author: Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). Cannon holds an MDiv from North Park Theological Seminary, an MBA from North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, and an MA in bioethics from Trinity International University. She received her first doctorate in American History with a minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University of California (Davis) focusing on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine and her second doctorate in Ministry in Spiritual Formation from Northern Theological Seminary.

She is the author of several books including the award-winning Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World and editor of A Land Full of God: Christian Perspectives on the Holy Land. Her work has been highlighted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today, Leadership Magazine, The Christian Post, Jerusalem Post, EU Parliament Magazine, Huffington Post, and other international media outlets.

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