Sunday, December 3

MCC Palestine Update: Advent Greetings from the Holy Land! (1 of 4)

MCC Palestine Update: Advent Greetings from the Holy Land! (1 of 4)

3 December 2006

Dear Friends,

The Advent season is upon us--a season meant to be a time of somber preparation and yet at the same time filled with joyful expectation and hope. As we enter this season of Advent, we wanted to pass along the following Advent letter sent by a group of international church workers living and working in Palestine/Israel. Attached is this letter in the form of a bulletin insert that you can feel free to use in your community.

We also wanted to remind you of the Mennonite Church USA Advent advocacy campaign. During this season of Advent, MCUSA is urging us to remember the "little town" of Bethlehem. But the challenge is not only to remember this story as we imagine it "then" but to also remember the situation here "now." Please visit for more information on this campaign. To find out more about specific suggestions for how you can get involved, please visit

May the voices of these Palestinian sisters and brothers that are so often dismissed, silenced, and dehumanized speak loudly to you this Advent season, providing both a meaning and a challenge for your own celebration of the incarnational presence of "God with us" this Christmas.

Peace to you all,

Timothy Seidel

Christi and Timothy Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee - Palestine

Greetings to you from the Holy Land, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace

During the season of Advent, we remember the words of the prophet Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined…(Is 9:2)

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; (Is 9:6a)

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. (Is 9:7a)

He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forever. (Is 9:7b)

For Christians, these words hold the core of our faith: that God so loved the world that God came into the world in Christ to be born in our midst to embody hope and new life. During this sacred time of Advent, we wait and watch with eager anticipation for the coming of this light in Bethlehem.

Yet, even as we watch and wait, we also work with the children of Bethlehem today who still wait in deep darkness: for justice, for peace, for basic human rights, for a sign that the world hears them, trapped behind concrete walls and locked into tiny enclaves created under Israeli military occupation.

The kids can no longer look over the wall that separates them from the outside world and wonder, “will anyone remember us?”

When they hear the words of the angels: “Fear not, for behold, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10), they wonder when this promise might include them, too.

A woman from Bethlehem speaks of life under the darkness of occupation this way:

“I think of the struggle for freedom, for an end to occupation, as a tunnel. Up ahead I see a light. I can’t tell how far that light is from me, but I do see a light. I think the end of the tunnel is a hundred-year walk from where I am today, but I keep walking, believing that every step that I take forward is an achievement of great worth and note.”

What does it mean to all these men, women and children walking in darkness, trapped behind concrete walls, that "unto us a child is born?" What does it mean to us that we call this Child "Savior?"

It means that we stand with these and all those who are oppressed and held captive to fear and occupation. It means that we remember that God once chose to come into the world as a poor, vulnerable child who came to lift the lowly, set free the oppressed and bring new light and love into the world. It means that we believe in this Word made flesh who proclaimed that every child deserved love, justice, hope and a fair share of the blessings of creation.

This Christmas, we will send you three more letters lifting up the voices of some of these Bethlehem families, and giving you resources to learn more about what is happening in the town of Our Savior's birth. We are asking that you use this season to make your church more aware of what is happening here.

Perhaps, as you begin to sing the hymn "O Little Town of Bethlehem," you might stand in silent prayer instead for our sisters and brothers in that beleaguered city and all those in the Holy Land who suffer from fear, violence and oppression. Perhaps you will use an adult education hour to watch together the slide shows at about life in Bethlehem today.

On Christmas Eve, as we watch images of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem, remember in prayer and lament the many in the land of our Savior’s birth who will be refused permission to "come, all ye faithful," simply because they are Palestinian. We pray for a time when all people of faith who want to "come and see" might be able to, regardless of their ethnicity.

May the peace of Christ be with you all.

Advent 2006

*Pastor Alex and Brenda Awad
General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church

*Sister Sylvia Countess
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

*Douglas Dicks
Presbyterian Church (USA) Regional Liaison

*Sri Mayasandra
Mennonite Central Committee

*Pastor Julie Rowe
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

*Christi and Timothy Seidel
Mennonite Central Committee

*Pastor Russell Siler
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

*Pastor Marlin and Sally Vis
Reformed Church in America

*World Vision Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza

The above are international church workers and agencies living and working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

A prayer petition for Christmas Eve:

Dear God, we pray for the children of Bethlehem and their families who are struggling to see your light in what should be a celebration of your coming. We pray for justice and peace in the land of your birth and an end to the occupation that keeps Palestinians and Israelis living in the darkness of fear, violence and oppression. Empower the leaders with wisdom and strength to break through the impasse and forge new paths to peace with justice and healing among Jews, Christians and Muslims throughout the world. Bless Bethlehem’s children and provide them and their families with a better future filled with your love. -Amen

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