Tag: Christmas

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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Advent: A star, a star, dancing in the night

A star, a star, dancing in the night… with a tail as big as a kite. 

Stars are symbolic of many things. For some, they are a spiritual or sacred symbol. For example, an eight-pointed star is a Native American symbol of hope and guidance. For others, stars are a symbol of magic, humanity, divinity, direction (as the Northern Star), excellence, or even fame. Some may say “reach for the stars” as a means to motivate. The star of Bethlehem is one of guidance, the star of David representing hope in the coming Messiah. 

In the Christmas story, we read in Matthew 2 that the Magi (wise men, magicians, astronomers) see a star rise to their west and travel great distances to worship the one who has been born, Jesus, the king of the Jews. This star is the beacon of their long-awaited hope, now realized. Imagine yourself in their shoes. For generations the Jews have been awaiting the coming of the Messiah, literally looking to the skies. Can you imagine the heart palpitations, the thoughts that raced through their minds “do you think it could be?” The compelling sense to see the star, to not miss the joyous occasion, the motivation to go and see – with the thought “we must see this miraculous occasion for ourselves.” 

Do you see what I see? 

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Christmas Day: Being Together

As a Historic Peace Church, one would rightly expect the Church of the Brethren to highlight the coming of one hailed as the “Prince of Peace.” That the angels proclaim, “Peace on Earth” and not long after, violence would be used by those in power attempting to stifle this coming child. The political and social context then and now make a robust focus on peace a clear need.

We also assert that all theology is practical—what some would call ethics—and as such, that the coming child embodies the fullness of God’s shalom is of immediate relevance for how we live as Christians and the church in the world. In another context I have defined peace as:

Peace is the presence of wholeness in relationships that are characterized by justice, mutuality, and wellbeing. Peace is not a universal or homogenous experience but is experienced in the appreciation and celebration of diversity and between individuals, communities, nations, and with the environment (non-human world).

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Advent: Love Can Overcome

We’ve been waiting a long time for Jesus to return. I’m starting to feel like we’ve been stood up. What would it mean to give up on the notion that Jesus shall return to make it all okay?

Some time ago, I rejected the terrible vision of Jesus’ return as laid out in the book of Revelation. I recognize that the gospels occasionally present Jesus as endorsing violence against those who are opponents of the kingdom of God. I can even imagine that some kind of “crushing of the enemies of the kingdom” was a part of Jesus’ worldview. But I don’t think it is Jesus’ best material, and I see the cross and resurrection as a rejection of this way of thinking. At the moment where we might imagine God intervening to vanquish the enemies of God’s kingdom, God is absent. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus declares that he has been forsaken by God. At the meal that celebrates God’s violent intervention to save the Jewish people, Jesus asks his followers to remember the moment when God did not choose to intervene violently. Jesus’s death is not necessary; it is tragic. Jesus dies in solidarity with all victims of violence, especially the victims of state and religious violence. We should be horrified at Jesus’s death and should vow to stop the senseless scapegoating of other humans. In this way, the resurrection can be understood as God’s rejection of the cross as a means of keeping the peace.

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Advent: Venturing to the Other Side

The idiom “the other side of the tracks” usually refers to a line of demarcation and separation, often actually railroad tracks, between the more affluent part of a town from a more impoverished area. The separation is often both economic and racial/ethnic. Depending on which side you are on, you either have an acute awareness of the other side—its influence and control on your life—or you have some vague stereotypical ideas of a place you rarely go.

Palestinians know and understand the idiom well, simply by changing one word, “tracks” to “wall,” referring to the separation barrier/wall that Israel began to build in 2002. The separation is also psychological between Israelis and Palestinians. Between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the barrier is a 30-foot high concrete wall.

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Advent: Grace and Peace

God enters time and history through the divine incarnation. The Almighty God invites Himself into our lives in a state of absolute weakness and vulnerability. The newborn lying in a manger holds in His hands the secret of the universe, the secret of the entire creation and absolute love. In the cold night of Bethlehem, the one who carries within her the treasure of the world, the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, travels across the city in search of a place to give birth to the one who will change the course of the history of mankind. Today, we still count the years from this glorious moment when time and space were sanctified, merging in a divine kairos, an instant of the Kingdom in which still echoes the alleluia of the angels. As we contemplate this glorious miracle, we experience a sense of mingled wonder and awe that church expresses in the Orthodox hymns for the feast: “Heaven called the Magi by a star, and thus it brought the first-fruits of the Gentiles to You, the infant lying in the manger. And they were amazed, not by scepters and thrones, but by utter poverty. For what is more shabby than a cave? And what is more humble than swaddling clothes? But it was through these that the riches of your divinity shone forth. Lord, glory to You!” (Hypakoe of the Nativity) 

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Advent: God of Hope

As a child growing up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I was always excited to see my parents bring out the Advent wreath and place it in the center of our dinner table. With its arrival, I knew that Christmas was coming soon. Set with four candles, three purple and one pink, to be lit in a particular order, one for each Sunday leading up to Christmas, I understood that the Advent Season is a special time of waiting and preparing for the coming birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. 

My parents made sure I also understood that Christian families around the world were gathering in their homes, just like my family, to light candles on their Advent wreaths and read the same Scripture passages about hope, peace, joy, and love. The spirit of unity and solidarity made a deep impression on my heart.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Choose Hope

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
Hebrews 1:1-3a

As we celebrate the final Sunday of Advent, as well as Christmas Eve, it is only fitting to focus on JesusEmmanuel, God With Uswho is Love.  With so much discussion in the news about the actions of the powerful, of nations, states, and politicians, let us remember our savior, who came into the world in the most vulnerable of circumstances. He came as a baby, born in the most dire of circumstances, to parents who weren’t even wed. And yet, his birth changed everything. Through him we are able to see God, because he is God. 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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