Letter to those who celebrate Christmas

Letter Eight

Written By Sabeel, an Ecumenical Center for Palestinian Liberation Theology, Jerusalem.

( Please try to translate, edit, copy it and distribute it at the entrance of Churches, Universities, Shopping centers etc., Thanks)

"During this Advent season, as many people around the world are busy with Christmas preparations, we Palestinians have serious concerns, as we too anticipate the celebrations of the birth of Christ.

How many of us will be allowed to cross the checkpoints and reach Bethlehem in order to celebrate Christmas? Who among us will be able to celebrate the feast with our families and friends? What kind of a Christmas will the political prisoners have? How many of us will be able to meet the needs of our families this year? How much more of our land will be confiscated within the coming weeks?

How long will we Palestinians have to wait to experience the Christmas message of peace which was first announced in our land? (Luke 2:14)

Amidst these and other difficulties, Sabeel, Liberation Theology Center can still send out the following message, a Christmas message of hope.


A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE OF HOPE

The coming of Christ into the world holds many meanings for many different people. For us as a Palestinian Christian community, it is primarily a message of hope. Although we do feel despair when we look around us and witness the further entrenchment of the occupation, we are nevertheless filled with hope when we look to Christ and reflect on his coming.

Indeed it is hope that is our greater source of empowerment. And so despite all the difficulties of this past year, we join our voices with the Apostle Paul and affirm that: 'We are saved by hope' (Romans 8:24).

Luke's narrative of the birth of Christ and the angels' proclamation to the shepherds is familiar to us all (2:8-14). There are four key phrases in the message of the angels that are especially full of hope and liberation for those of us living under occupation, as were the shepherds 2,000 years ago. 'DO NOT BE AFRAID; for see - I am bringing you GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY for all people: to you is born this day ... A SAVIOR, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and ON EARTH PEACE ...' (10-14).

For people who live in situations of oppression this is great news: 'fear' is to be dispelled, 'joy' will replace it, a 'savior' - a liberator - is coming who will usher in 'peace'.

This great Christmas news, however, is sent to us in a most peculiar way. That is, our savior and liberator arrived in the form of a child born in a stable (2:12). To many it may seem absurd that God challenged the strong and mighty through such a vulnerable creature. This baby was not born into the powerful political or religious establishment of that day, but rather into the poor and marginalized section of society. God chose to become incarnate in a child whose parents could only find shelter in a cave and an adult who had no place to lay his head (9:58). Salvation, it appears, derives from the most unlikely people and places. This is the paradox of a God whose very essence is bound with the refugees, the outcasts, the abused and the oppressed. So it is that Paul could very well write: 'For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God's weakness is stronger than human strength' (1 Corinthians 1:25).

This year's Christmas message to those who appear to be in 'power' is that they cannot continue to misuse and abuse a peace process so that its outcome might be to their sole advantage. Ultimately, they cannot disregard and discount God. To those who appear 'powerless', the message lies in deriving hope from a baby, the most vulnerable of all beings, and from a cave, the most improbable place of power. So it is that we must continue to rely upon God's seeming illogic and our collective action to bring about a just peace.


For more information, please write to Sabeel: Sabeel P.O.Box 1248, Jerusalem. Phone/fax 972-2-6-283869. E mailSabeel@Planet.edu.

Or LabibKobti@aol.com