As we read the Gospel stories about Jesus’ birth and childhood, we find King Herod learning from the Magi that the promised one, born king of the Jews, had been born (Matthew 2:1-6). The announcement of the long-awaited’s birth was not joyous news to this earthly king. On the contrary, the advent of this young child posed a significant threat to Herod’s power and position and led him to terrible pronouncements that altered a generation. Herod’s fear manifested in his order that all boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity, two years old and under, be killed (Matthew 2:16).
When faced with the fear of losing their power and comfort, leaders and the privileged often lose sight of the broader picture. This was true in ancient times, as it remains true today in current politics, business, kingdoms, nations, neighborhoods, and even our faith communities. The “us and them” mentality presents a false dichotomy. There is only “us” – all of God’s children – a grand reality that those with wealth and influence still belong to those who are vulnerable, underserved, without voice or platform.
“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.”
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
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
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
by Elli Atchison, World Vision
As the hype around the Israeli elections comes to a close, the watching world questions if new peace talks are possible in the near future. The international community has been supportive over the years. They have encouraged the peace process and provided financial and diplomatic aid to protect Israel’s security and democracy in the region. However, frustration seems to be growing and patience is getting thin. There are many questions about the future of the Holy Land, but the one thing that is certain is that status quo of life in Israel and the Palestinian Territories cannot continue.
All people living in the Holy Land have unmet needs. Israelis want to feel safe and secure. Palestinians want live in freedom without the occupation. All want economic opportunities that will improve the lifestyles of their families and their hopes for a better future. These are common needs and basic desires from two groups of people who were created by the same God. Read more
by Elli Atchison, World Vision
There are so many wonderful things about Christmas. My favorite parts are the beautiful decorations, holiday music, and sharing good cheer with family and friends. However, shopping is the part of Christmas I honestly do not enjoy. Finding the perfect gift is an almost impossible quest that I often dread. It is during these stressful moments that I try to reflect on some of the people who were on God’s list that first Christmas. What were the perfect presents He chose for each of them?
The first person on God’s list was Mary. She was a young girl from a humble family, living in the small town of Nazareth. Mary was, of course, engaged to be married to Joseph and probably dreaming about what life would be like after she became his wife. So, when a messenger came to Mary unexpectedly and revealed that God wanted to change her plans, I am sure she was frightened and confused. This stranger calmed her fears, and Mary said “Yes” to God’s call. Read more
by Elli Atchison, World Vision
While the Holy Land was again experiencing acts of violence and terror, a varied group of people gathered in a church in Orlando, Florida.
- men and women,
- people of color and whites,
- Christians, Muslims, and Jews,
- Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians,
- Pastors and an Imam,
- a CEO and unemployed,
- children and elderly,
- people from all walks of life,
- most of them strangers with only one thing in common
They were all seeking a word of HOPE for a land that is often characterized as hopeless.
This gathering was one of the final stops on a two-week “Hope for the Holy Land” tour that traveled across the United States, discussing what it means to be Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice, and Pro-Jesus. The diverse group in Orlando all joined together in prayer before listening to the perspectives shared by the three keynote speakers. Read more
by Craig Swandby, World Vision
The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF) is a joint Palestinian Israeli organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict. Through face-to-face reconciliation programs, the Parent’s circle has shown that the reconciliation between individuals and nations is possible, and it is this insight that they are trying to pass on to both sides of the conflict.
The PCFF was established in 1995 by Mr. Yitzhak Frankental and several bereaved Israeli families. In 1998 the first meetings were held with a group of Palestinians families from Gaza who identified with the call to prevent further bereavement through dialogue, tolerance, peace, and reconciliation. The connection with the group in Gaza was cut off as a result of the second Intifada. Read more