Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Heads of the Christian Communities
in the Holy Land
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon
us, to give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace” Lk 1:78-79
Greetings in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ to All Our Beloved Brothers and Sisters!
In the year 2000, our land - the land of Jesus’ birth - cries
out in pain again. The year started with an outpouring of joy as we all
came together to celebrate the new millennium. We then moved onward with
our faith and prayers, raising our own expectations as much as those of
our people, that peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis was at
long last within grasp. But in the last few months, hope has been replaced
with fear, despair, pain, loss and death. Stones and shells are competing
unequally on a daily basis. Palestinians and Israelis are living once again
with the painful realities of violence, terror, injustice, closures, insecurity
and dehumanization. For many of us, a reality of peace-filled co-existence
has become more challenging and distant. In such circumstances, hope
has also become a forlorn and ever-arduous task. Yet, with our faith and
confidence in the One whose birth we celebrate, we re-commit ourselves
to hope and re-dedicate ourselves to continue working for justice and peace.
As pastors of our Christian people, we are deeply aware of those sad realities. We bear in our hearts and minds the pain of our own communities as well as that of all Palestinian and Israeli men and women of faith in our land. We remain conscious that our people will not enjoy many of the customary Christmas celebrations in this land this year. Yet, we urge them not to lose sight of that event in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. We urge the leaders of the international community to help all those fighting to tackle the root causes of the conflict, and to give back to the Palestinian people their freedom and dignity so that the Israeli people can then enjoy security and tranquility. This is the message of the Christians of the Holy Land to the Christian world today.
The basis of our hope lies in God’s faithfulness and truth. We trust
in His steadfast mercy. Christmas points us beyond the painful realities
of the moment toward the power, the light and the love of God which guides
every human being to truth, justice and dignity. This love, made manifest
at Christmas, cannot keep us complacent. Rather, it is meant to sustain
us as we seek to live in ways which bring healing, wholeness and justice
to all peoples of the world. Despite the brokenness and pain which exist
in our world today, the gift of Christmas reminds us that God remains greater
than all human power and all human principalities in our region as much
as in the whole world.
For us all, the birth of our Lord and Savior represents the one light that dispels darkness. We are called to live as children of the light, marching ever onward on the way of justice and peace, for that is where we are supposed to discover life, joy and fulfillment, even if we never achieve peace in our own lifetime.
Today, we need to find ways in our own hearts and minds where we can nurture a culture of peace. We have heard and accepted the gospel of the peace of Christ, and we are his witnesses and ambassadors who are entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-20). Indeed, as we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), the one who reconciled us to God and gave each one of us the power to reconcile with his brother and sister, we pray that hostility, bitterness and alienation may be swept away.
As we prepare ourselves to receive the new-born in a lowly manger at Bethlehem, we invite all our sons and daughters to join us in our religious celebrations as we pray for those who are dead, bereaved, afflicted and injured so that God will bless us all with an even deeper faith and comfort us with His healing power. We invite them also to be patient and to rekindle their hope in the face of all difficulties, so that this very hope may become an in-breaking of light and a resurgence of faith. In so doing, we, not unlike the shepherds, can go forth into the darkest of nights, glorifying and praising God who came to save humankind and to fill the earth with justice and peace.
Holy Christmas and a Blessed New Year