Associate Minister's December 2014 Letter

Bethlehem Unwrapped

 

Does the commercialisation of Christmas seem to start earlier?  TV adverts by all the major supermarkets have been vying for attention since the beginning of November – each with its own message of how to make Christmas special.  The Sainsbury advert about the unofficial truces held by opposing sides who climbed out of their trenches on Christmas Day 1914 is well worth seeing.  The fighting had reached stalemate by November 1914 and with even more rain than we have had this year the trenches were filling up with water.  The common enemy of cold and mud brought British and German soldiers to recognise their common humanity – much to the disapproval of their generals!

 

At this time of year many of us attend carol services as a way of escaping from the commercial side of Christmas.  We will sing about Jesus being born in Bethlehem – ‘O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie’ - and celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace. In our homes and churches we want to recreate the atmosphere and wonder of that place where Jesus was born.

 

The tragedy is that today the real Bethlehem is not a place of peace and harmony.  The Israeli government have built a wall 8 metres high which separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem and from the fields and farms where Palestinians own land and make their living.  It is an affront to all who long for peace in the Holy Land and especially those whose lives are affected by its overwhelming presence.

 

Last year a church in London, St James Piccadilly, decided to do something different.  Instead of putting up coloured lights they built a replica of the wall that surrounds Bethlehem today and placed it in front of the church – a full 8 metres high.  It was called ‘Bethlehem Unwrapped’ and brought home the challenge facing Palestinians today who live with this huge wall winding through their land.

 

One of the sponsors of Bethlehem Unwrapped is The Amos Trust whose aim is to challenge injustice, build hope & create change.  One of their projects is to rebuild Palestinian homes that have been demolished by the State of Israel.  Helping these people to rebuild is to stand with them in solidarity against the injustice of home demolitions, and to ensure that they know they not forgotten by the rest of the world.

 

Joanna and I are applying to go and help rebuild a home near Bethlehem next April.  It is just something we can do however small.  The story of how the soldiers defied their orders and climbed out of their trenches to meet their opposite numbers on Christmas Day 1914 inspires us to see how with God’s help the human spirit can rise above conflict and fear.

 

Wishing you all a Very Special Christmas

 

Christopher Cant

 

To find out more see: amostrust.org/news/rebuild-a-home-in-palestine-in-april-2015


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