Patriarchs and Head of Christian Communities in Jerusalem Christmas Message 1996

Beloved Brothers and in Sisters in Christ,

As we welcome the dawning of a new Christmas, we are reminded of how the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest and peace to God's people on Earth." (Luke 2:14)

1996, however, has not been a year of peace for people in the Holy Land. Instead, we have witnessed the harvest of hatred and enmity manifesting itself in the form of death and suffering amongst all the children of our forefather Abraham. Hope has turned to despair and goodwill to mistrust. Suicide bombings, wholesale closures and rising extremism have impacted Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Hopes for peace have been stunted by human violence and unyielding postures.

At such a critical period, we need to turn again to the infant Jesus, born in a modest manger in Bethlehem. We need to make room for the Saviour child in our hearts if we want to overstep mistrust and mutual negation. If the child cannot be born in our hearts, then the child will not be born at all. Are we willing to transform our hearts into cribs that are ready to receive God and facilitate His presence within us? Are we ready to implement Christ's command to love one another - a command as relevant to our world which stands on the threshold of the new millennium as it was 2000 years ago?

AT this time of uncertain peace, the Christian community is called in nurture Christ's presence in this land. We must be the crib that embraces and protects the Prince of Peace, that represents the message of love and hope to the whole community and to all peoples. We must prepare Him room so that we might be His hands and feet, taking the initiative for peace. We need to teach ourselves how to go beyond our own human restrictions and limitations as well as those we impose upon others. The Christmas message leads us to seek a place where there is openness, room for common growth and new beginnings.

As we look to a new year, we also pray for renewed hope amongst the two peoples of this land. Let all governments respect the dignity and human rights of everyone. Let all people respect others as they respect themselves and, as called for by the prophet Amos, Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (5:24).

As Children of God, we all have a duty to pray and work for peace and to suffer with those whose lives are dimmed by the darkness of oppression. We cherish all efforts toward peace in the Holy Land. We wish God's wisdom and guidance to all the political leaders; may they have the strength and enjoy success so that our region will be blessed with the fruits of their mutual efforts - the joy of real peace. That should be our Christmas gift to each other and the real fruit of the Christmas season.

We pray that our Saviour the Christ child, who has power over all evil, fills you with His blessings, May He bless you in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit, One God Forever and Ever, Amen.

Jerusalem, Christmas 1996