Dear Brothers and Sisters in Humanity,
Dear members of the Palestinian people
Dear members of AEI-Pax Christi groups, friends, partners and funders, here and abroad,
I wish you all a Blessed and Joyful Advent and Christmas Season!
In our beloved country – the Birthplace of the Lord Jesus Christ – we celebrate Christmas and all other Christian and Muslim feasts in faith through action, hoping against hope and with joy and sumud or resilience despite the injustices of the occupation, the Palestinian internal difficulties and without the implementation of the UN resolutions related to the Palestinian national aspirations.
On this happy feast, I invite you to accompany me in some moments of reflection and prayer on the Nativity Story and analyze the true meanings and values that help us all to strengthen our sumud, common goal, mission and collective work in achieving a just peace, “A World of Friends is a World of Peace.”
The birth of Jesus was predicted in the Old Testament prophecies. Later on, John the Baptist prepared for the coming and arrival of Jesus.
The other character of the Nativity story was that of the Virgin Mary of Nazareth. She was chosen by God in a special and unique way according to the Bible. She was “selected and favored by God from among the women of the whole world,” according to the Quran.
She listened well to the words of Gabriel, God’s angel. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel”. She was a symbol of God’s will, obedience, acceptance and became a mother to Jesus. She was the good example of motherhood, love, care, accompaniment, and sacrifice.
Joseph was the carpenter, the simple, the obedient and the cooperative person with God in the birth of Jesus. He is the compassionate, “I and your mother were looking for you.”
The Shepherds, the ancestors of our Beit Sahouri neighbors, have been other good models of the simplicity of the marginalized, the poor, the fearless, the obedient and the steadfast. They were firm and good listeners to the hymns of the angels.
The other figures of the Nativity Story were the Wise Men – the Magi of the East who walked tirelessly as sameeden [those who are steadfast], following their astronomical stars and coming as simple and obedient people to give as great leaders very precious gifts to Baby Jesus.
Their journey was a long one but it gave evidence of the importance of the leaders’ great duty of “Service.” “I come to serve, not to be served.” They are symbols of humanity, modesty, the connection and communication of the leaders who have to come down from their ivory tower to the grassroots in the spirit of Christmas, giving in love as well as in close connection with the citizens.
Last but not least in my journey of reflection is Bethlehem, the setting, time and place of this historical, spiritual, religious and miraculous event. Why was Bethlehem chosen by God to be the birth place of His Salvation, His human coming into connection with all human beings, not only the Christians but the peoples of all faiths? The selection of Bethlehem, then Jerusalem and all the other sites of Jesus’ teachings was sanctified and blessed by God. This is to tell us all, regardless of our different backgrounds: “Take care of my Holy Land: Protect it as your common home.” God also, in His choice of this holy place, wants to tell us: Love one another as you love me and be steadfast, love your land as humans and as responsible and committed citizens too.
The Christmas Story is the greatest gift of love, joy, sumud, journey and peace – and must be translated into action. May its Christmas blessings fill our hearts, minds, lives as humans and Palestinians throughout the Advent, Christmas and New Year seasons.
Let us all pray to God “to use us as instruments for His peace.”
On this happy occasion, the Christmas greatest gift in love and service calls upon us to remember the persecuted, the poor, the people under occupation and especially our children and prisoners.
“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving” – Mother Teresa
Glory to God in heaven, peace on earth to all people of good will.