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Holy Land War

Since Oct. 7th, Hamas and Israel have been at war. After a 7-day cease-fire and hostage and prisoner exchanges, fighting has resumed. On the nightly evening news, we have seen the news banner: “Holy Land War” across our screens. One consequence of this Holy Land War is the cancellation of our Holy Land tour in April.

Visiting the Holy Land was supposed to let us “walk where Jesus walked” so that we might become inspired beyond words. We were going to visit Bethlehem where Jesus was born in a stable and imagined where the shepherds stood and the wise men came bearing gifts. We were going to Nazareth where Joseph planed wood and Mary nursed Baby Jesus. We were going to Galilee where Jesus started his ministry and recruited the disciples. We were going to see where Jesus took 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread and fed 5000 people. In Jerusalem, we were going to have the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room, walk the Via Dolorosa, see Calvary and where Jesus ascended. But the Holy Land is at war this Christmas.

Today, while we are in our holiday festivities, I do wonder how might we reconcile the joy to the world when the Holy Land is at war. All the wonders of God’s love at Christmas are founded and made visible to us in the flesh in the Holy Land, but today, it’s at war. 

One of the texts for tomorrow is Isaiah 40:1-11. Isaiah is comforting Israel as she emerges from destruction and exile. But this text is comforting for us today. It reads:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
The uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

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For the past 2 months, the Palestinians and Israelis need comfort. We need to be comforted too when we have seen so much destruction and death. Maybe in this wilderness of war, we might journey together toward peace. Maybe when we see highways and infrastructures blown up and demolished, we might want to encounter the divine even more. Maybe when those with so little in the valley can reconcile with those who have so much in the mountains and hills can be together to level the uneven ground and smooth out the rough places so that both Palestinians and Israelis, both Muslims and Jews, both Christians and unbelievers can actually live together with the hope for a new tomorrow. 

Christmas Day will be upon us very soon. Perhaps for this 2023 Christmas because there’s a war in the Holy Land, we just might believe in the Prince of Peace, the Light of the world to come in the darkness of today and the darkness will not overcome it.

Let us pray.

O God, comfort the Palestinians and the Israelis as they fight a war in the Holy Land. We pray justice to prevail for those who have lost loved ones. And we pray in your time, Lord for reconciliation to happen so that vengeance will be replaced with forgiveness, hate replaced with love, partitioning replaced with living and thriving as neighbors. 

Comfort us as we remember your love for your people in the birth of Jesus, our Savior at Christmas. Lead us to become peacemakers as the Prince of Peace taught us. As we pray for peace in the Middle East, we also pray for peace in our country and in our different communities. Teach us and encourage us to carry that light of love and peace and not allow the darkness to overcome it. All these things both spoken and in the depths of our hearts, we pray in the name of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, Amen.

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Grace

St. Teresa of Avila

In 1515, Teresa had a mystical experience with God which transformed her life. She founded a new convent in Spain, “barefoot” Carmelites; nuns wore coarse brown habits and sandals, ate no meat and spent their days doing manual labor. As a teenager, she was occupied with fashions and reading romance novels. Despite her father’s opposition, she entered a convent at age twenty. 

Christ has
No body now on earth but yours;
No hands but yours;
No feet but yours;
Yours are the eyes
Through which is to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet
With which he is to go about
Doing good;
Yours are the hands
With which he is to bless now.
Christ has
No body now on earth but yours. 

Thank you, God for our bodies, hands, feet, eyes and all that we are to share Christ’s compassion in the world. Thank you, God for the abundance of both food and fellowship today that will grant us good health and faithful spirit. In the joy of Christmas, we pray. Amen. 

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