O little town of Bethlehem,
How miserable we see thee lie!
Below thy 28 ft. high concrete separation wall of Aparthied,
Palestinians cower in fear and sleepless nights.
The silent stars are witness
to thy dark and somber deeds and streets
Where the light shineth not,
And the everlasting darkness of occupation
Hangs heavy on oppressed infants and the occupied.
Nazi-like Zionist hatred and violence of the past 71 years
Kill hope and instill fear in every Palestinian’s heart.
And nothing but arrests, theft, torture and killings
Are fears that meet thee every single minute
Of every single day, and every single night.
On October 3, 2022, former colleague and dear friend Ray Grenade sent me an email. “Raouf,” the email began, “I know your concerns about writing for Advent, but I wanted to send you this year’s list since it’s the longest season possible. It’s current as of this moment. And at the end is a para that will be in the booklet that might help focus your thinking about what you might want to say. You have such an original voice, and one from which our congregation can benefit. So please give it some thought before declining this year. Thanks in advance for considering. Ray”
Along with Ray’s query came a long list of suggested topics that dovetailed with biblical texts. A few of these topics included “Rejoicing,” “Joy Comes in the Morning,” “Our Heart Will Rejoice ,” “Joy to the World,” “Rejoice in God,” “Rejoice with Joy Inexpressible ,” “It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” “Peace a Spiritual Fruit “ “Hopes. Future, Hope of Glory,” “Hope of Our Calling,” and “Love as I Have Loved .”
Since Advent is a time of preparation for a momentous occasion, it is also one of anticipatory rejoicing as we await the Light. That sense of Rejoicing is this year’s overall theme. Each of Advent’s four weeks has a set of devotionals formatted like a traditional worship service: prelude/call to worship, invocation, scripture(s), hymn(s), and benediction. The songs/hymns have URLs to allow you to hear them if you wish. Individual devotionals provide elaboration of their “position.” The weeks cohere around individual themes (Joy, Peace, Hope, Love). We hope that this organization will enhance your use of the booklet through this season to focus on personal and communal preparation for the celebration that is its culmination. Most of all, we pray that use of this booklet will encourage your cultivation of the sense of each week’s theme in your own lives, even as we approach this season weighed down by wars; rumors of wars; stories of insurrections; natural catastrophes of wind, flood, and fire; disease; crime; and all of those human ills that depress, divide, and distract us, luring our attention from divine matters in the kingdom of which we are all part. [Empasis mine]
To which I responded thusly:
Ray, Thank you for thinking of me.
How can I write about Jesus, his birth, his birthplace (only 12 miles from I grew up) joy, and the season of hope and peace when Every Single Day Palestinians are killed and maimed by a xenophobic, vengeful mob supported and abetted by the Evangelicals who see the killing of Palestinians as part of God’s plan?
Even children are not spared, they are shot, arrested, mobbed; their schools are demolished and bombed with gas canisters. Children as young as seven are arrested and detained. And Biden tells the world that he is an ardent “Zionist to the bone,” a so-called hypocritically devout Catholic who fails to condemn Israeli brutalities.
Frankly speaking, Ray, Ching Ching is the only thing that makes the heart of this country throb.
I hope you get good writers cause some past advent postings were sophomoric.
I keep looking for Christian folks to stand up for justice for all – in the same manner that they stand up for blonde, blue-eyed Ukrainians.
Even though my cup has spilled over, I still remain a believer in the decency of those who practice their faith through their actions. And I am fortunate to known a few of them who’ve enriched my life and affirmed that goodness does exist.
Again, Ray, thanks for your invitation, but I must decline.
In the heart of every Palestinian, whether they be Christians or Muslims, is a big pit of anguish, fear, pain, uncertainty, despair, and hopelessness that feed into the cauldron of daily killings, house demolitions, confiscation of personal and real property, long and humiliating waits at checkpoints, mass arrests, and imprisonment. How could I write about joy, rejoicing, and other Hallmark themes that gloss over what is really happening in Palestine, a land coveted by greedy colonial adventurists who keep accusing God of some real estate deal favoring the interlopers of times past? That same God is accused of having ordered the killing of entire cities and villages to appease some demented fetish for His people.
The biblical narrative surrounding Christ’s birth tells us that Herod ordered the killing of thousands of children in what became known as The Killing of the Innocents. In early December Knesset Member Zvi Fogel of the Jewish Power Party, a modern-day Herod-wannabe, stated that he was committed to making “a thousand Palestinian mothers cry to prevent one Israeli death. … We are too merciful.” And “Returning Gaza to the stone age. … Mowing the grass. … [Israel’s, he added] deliberately disproportionate attacks [are designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize civilian populations.”
At a time when empathy about Mary’s plight and flight is celebrated, Israeli politicians such Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s (herself a mother) comments are abhorrent: “The entire Palestinian people is the enemy, …they must be destroyed including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure. Especially the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to Little Snakes.”
What started out as a forced land-grab in 1948 is today a wild west of fanatic settlers taunting Palestinians, Killing them, denying them access to their fields to harvest their crops. Only last week two young Palestinian men were run down by a settler and killed. Their guilt, on their way to their sister’s wedding, they had to repair a flat tire. Aided and abetted by the US and EU in a race to gobble up the rest of Palestine, the Israelis are well on their way to accomplishing their goal.
For two thousand years now another Christmas in the Holy Land is made un-Holy because of warring invaders. This 20th century hateful, greedy, and ethnocentric group of zealots have created their god in their own hateful, angry, and vengeful image.
Is it not truly tragic that on the eve of the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace neither Zelensky nor Biden stressed “giving peace a chance?”
Ching Ching goes the national cash register. Write up another billion dollars’ worth in arms as a special Christmas gift to the Merchants of Death.