Lent Devotion… 26 March 2017

“My Song Is Love Unknown” words by Samuel Crossman

Why, what has my Lord done?

What makes this rage and spite?

He made the lame to run,

he gave the blind their sight.

Sweet injuries!

Yet they at these

themselves displease

and ‘giants him rise.

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

1 Samuel 16 v 1.

camel in desert 2Lent is not just about resisting temptation – it is about repentance, making ourselves ready for the future. The spiritual discipline of Lent, as we look to mature in our spiritual lives will, if it is real, be made clear in the way we lead our lives. There is a sense in which Lent is about preparing for the future, the resurrection life and the salvation acts of God. Samuel Crossman’s great hymn “My song is love unknown,” of which the verse above is verse 4 – ends with the words, “This is my friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.” The hymn that reflects upon the story of Jesus’ passion ends by affirming the sustaining joy of a future in fellowship with the Saviour.

“Look to the future” is also the message of the biblical passage quoted above. God challenges Samuel no longer to grieve over Saul and his failings, Samuel had seen in Saul a person who could lead and inspire the Israelites – but as time went by his corruption and psychological demise became clear for all to see. Samuel looks back with acute sadness. But God is saying to Samuel look ahead. I am doing a new thing. Christians when gathering together can too often be looking back with a sense of sadness that things are not as they were. But the challenge of mission is to see how, in God’s name, we can change the world. It is therefore always forward looking.

I perceive a palpable sense of hopelessness especially among the young here in the West Bank. Many are finding it hard to look ahead with any sense of hope. It feels to many that they are in a desert, the heat is on, the water is short, the way ahead looks difficult and uncertain. There is a Christian message of hope that needs to be communicated – in the end Justice will triumph, in the end the ways of God will win through. That can though be a very hard message to communicate in the context we find today in the West Bank and Gaza. It is also a very heard message to hear.

As we progress through the weeks of lent, increasingly considering the passion of our Lord in the days leading up to Good Friday, may we be ready to hear the resurrection message of Easter, – nothing is beyond the capacity of God. The God who raised Jesus from the dead is more than capable of resolving the problems that seem intractable to us – even the conflict between Israel and Palestine. May our faith shine forth with hope for all God’s world.

Let us Pray,

Holy God, sometimes it feels as if the problems we face in life will never go away. Some of the political conflicts of the world seem intractable. Yet nothing is impossible to you. Help us to remember that there is always hope when we hope in you. This prayer we pray in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

Devotion written by Rev. John Howard, Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel, from the Methodist Church in Britain.

Picture: camel wandering in the wilderness, taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown

“My Song Is Love Unknown” words by Samuel Crossman is in the Methodist UK Hymnal in “Singing the Faith” number 277 vs. 4 or in the UMC Hymnal supplement  “The Faith We Sing” number 2083 vs. 4

Lent Devotion… 19 March 2017…

“My Song Is Love Unknown” words by Samuel Crossman

My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me, love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.  O who am I, that for my sake my God should take frail flesh and die?  My God should take frail flesh and die?

song found in “Singing the Faith” 277 vs. 1 or “The Faith We Sing” 2083 vs. 1

 

John 4:7-15, 25-26

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  the Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”  (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep.  Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks rank from it?”  Jesus said to her, “everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ).  “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”  Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

 

Jacob's wellAn encounter with Jesus at a well happened when Jesus took a different path with the disciples, this time they journeyed through Samaritan land… around midday, Jesus stopped at Jacob’s well, hot, tired, and thirsty.  As the disciples had continued on to the village to find food, Jesus asked the woman for a drink.  She must have been stunned that a Jewish man was talking to her and that he asked for a drink.  As their conversation progressed, her life was changed, in ways she could not know.

She asked questions.  She knew her scriptures.  She was convicted by the encounter.  She was brave and courageous.  She responded to the conversation by returning to her village and telling the people about Jesus, could he be the Messiah?  The one they too were waiting for?

Today in the midst of challenges, can we be bold enough to journey with Jesus?  Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear the deeper message?

Jesus is compassion; he did not let cultural norms restrict him from talking to the woman.

Jesus is love; he showed love and respect to the woman.

Jesus welcomed her on the journey in faith to know that our relationship with God is more than a time and a place, but a lifetime.

When the world is placing walls, wars, and obstacles in the path, what can we do?  From places of oppression, occupation and injustice in the world, we, like the woman at the well, do have a voice, because of the encounter.  We can seek the living water.  We are not called to be silent to the truth, but to speak the truth in spirit and in love.

Let us pray:  Lord, we thank you for being available to all of humanity.  Help us to work together in sharing your message of love in spirit and in truth.  May we be transformed in our journey as we seek your living water.  Amen.

 

Devotion written by Rev. Kristen L. Brown, General Board of Global Ministries, Methodist Liaison serving in Palestine and Israel.

Picture credit:  Jacob’s well picture taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown

Lent Devotion… 12 March 2017…

“All My Hope Is Firmly Grounded” words by Joachim Neander in the United Methodist Hymnal 132vs. 1

 All my hope is firmly grounded

in the great and living Lord;

who, whenever I most need him,

never fails to keep his word. 

God I must wholly trust,

God the ever good and just.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.  “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”   Genesis 12:1-3

IMG_9893As a divine act of Grace, God chose Abraham to live as a man of faith.  God called him out of his family and clan so that in him all the nations would be blessed.  As Christians, our testimony is in Jesus that we find our satisfaction and fulfillment.  “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4: 2).  This faith and belief Abraham had, led him to respond in obedience to God’s call; and this meant sacrifice for him.  He sacrificed his land, people, nation and all his belongings to follow God’s greatest purpose for his life.  He started his journey towards the unknown but followed the Lord with all the faith His mind and heart could muster.

Following God’s call on our lives comes at a cost as well; living in the Holy Land today we know that all too well.  It requires faith in God and how God can transform our lives as we work for the Kingdom.  We may not know where God’s call could lead us, but we have confidence in the One who called us; and confidence that where God leads; God will guide and provide.  Without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11: 6).

Yet after this initial call to go to a different place to serve the Kingdom or to remain in our own physical localities, there remains a greater testimony that we need to demonstrate for everyone; to walk faithfully with the Lord and humbly before those we meet day to day.  Life’s many challenges lure us away from our goal, but as Jesus obeyed the God, we should do our best to do so as well!

For me one of the most moving parts of the scriptures is found in Hebrews 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

As a follower and a servant of Jesus here in Bethlehem, the life of ministry requires that I keep my eyes focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, without whom I can never accomplish anything good.  Jesus is my goal!  Witnessing to people who live in a broken land, where injustices are so clear around me, I have to remember the example of Abraham:  faith, obedience and sacrifice which will lead to God’s abundant blessings.   Jesus endured the cross and all its shame for us; he knew however, that he could trust his Father.  I pray that the precious people living in this land will experience a great resurrection on every aspect of their lives as they learn to listen to God’s voice day by day!

Let us pray, Lord, help us listen to your voice; give us the courage to respond to your call.  May our hearts be willing to always say, “here I am Lord”, and our mouths ready to speak of your amazing love demonstrated to us on the cross.  Amen.

Written by Michael Arteen, General Board of Global Ministries, serving at the Bethlehem Bible College as the campus minister.

Picture of the wilderness taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown.

Lent Devotion… 5 March 2017

 “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days”

words by Claudia F. Hernaman, UMH 269, verse 3

“As thou dist hunger bear, and thirst, so teach us, gracious Lord, to die to self, and chiefly live by thy most holy word.”

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  (Matthew 4:1)

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Wilderness at Wadi Qelt near Jericho where Jesus was tempted.  Picture by Tina Whitehead.

Temptation and sin.  Perhaps ‘sin’ is not a word or concept that we use much today, but I would suspect that we are all familiar with ‘temptation.’  Television ads constantly bombard us with products to buy that guarantee us a better quality of life; brightly packaged foods lure us away from our resolutions to follow a diet or a more healthy lifestyle.  ‘Opportunities’ to get ahead, to save money, might tempt us to make decisions that may not reflect our values.  Temptation is everywhere!

Some of the temptations we face might seem trivial (Should I have another cookie even though I know it is not healthy?).   But other temptations can be life changing, for ourselves and for others.  What does scripture teach us about dealing with temptation?

In today’s scripture passages, we see two examples of temptation, one in a garden and the other in the wilderness.  In one, the tempter wins out; in the other, the one tempted resists.  The temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden is somewhat troubling.  It seems innocent; they’re tempted to be like God, to know good from evil, to gain wisdom.  What could be wrong with that?  In the wilderness, Jesus has been fasting for 40 days.  He must be hungry, probably wondering how long this will last, or even if he will ever leave the desert.  He is tempted with food and with power.  But he does not give in.

I wonder if his response was as easy as it seems in Matthew’s account.  Was there anguish?  Did he wrestle with whether or not to give in?  It does not seem so here, but then I think of the Garden of Gethsemane and I read of sweating drops of blood as he struggles with, “Let this cup pass from me.”

And then I think of some of the temptations here in Palestine.  A son is in prison and a father is tempted to betray friends and family in order to obtain his release.  A wife has cancer and a husband is tempted to give evidence against neighbors in order to get a permit for her to be able to go a hospital and have needed treatment.  Temptation.  Anguish.  What choice would you make?

And another temptation that is everywhere present here.  The temptation to despair, the temptation to lose hope in the face of everyday realities under occupation.

For me, it is important to always remember that Jesus was fully human.  The anguish that we face, the choices that we are confronted with, were not unfamiliar to him.  He also struggled with temptation, but he trusted in God who is faithful, whose love is unfailing, who forgives us when we fall.  Or, as the writer of Psalm 32 states, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (vs. 8).  And in verse 10, “.…the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.”

Prayer Lord, we all know what it is like to be tempted.  Sometimes we feel helpless in the face of decisions that need to be made, other times we are just weak.  We thank you that your loving presence surrounds us and gives us hope.  May we look to you in all the decision that we make.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Devotion written by Tina Whitehead, United Methodist volunteer in Palestine and Israel.

Ash Wednesday…

Forty days and forty nights

you were fasting in the wild;

forty days and forty nights

tempted and yet undefined.

              Singing the Faith 236 v1

“As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute.”

2 Corinthians 6:4-8a

lent-pics-ash-wednesday-john-howard

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The Key, a  Palestinian symbol of steadfastness, located at the entrance to the Aida Refugee camp in Bethlehem. Many families still have the keys to the homes they lost in 1948.  Picture taken by Rev. John Howard.

 

 

As we begin Lent 2017 we find ourselves in a very different world to the world of Lent 2016.  Election and referenda results have made the world a lot less predictable. Issues which seem to have been taken as accepted ideas such as International Humanitarian Law, Climate Change and even Human Rights, are openly challenged again.  For Palestinians the world is a much more threatening place, with no peace process, a hostile White House and an even more confident Israeli administration making everyday life more and more difficult in the West Bank.

The writer of 2 Corinthians recognizes the challenges of life.  He and those he is writing to have been through it all for the sake of spreading the Gospel, “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments… and sleepless nights.”  His words resonate with the experience of the Christian community in Palestine.  They too have been through “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments… sleepless nights.”  Yet almost all of the Christian community adhere to their faith in the ways of non-violence to challenge the occupation and bring about a more just situation here.  In Palestine it is often known by the Arabic word “Sumoud” which can be translated as “Steadfastness,” or “Endurance,” but speaks of the active commitment of the people to stay where they are in the homes and on the land that they own and that their families have farmed for centuries.

Christians in this part of the world are a witness for those of us who come from very different places.  Often we need greater steadfastness, greater endurance – we can too easily give up on causes that we hold dear when it seems that results are slow in coming.  Lent is a time for self-examination, to face the temptations and to mature spiritually as we address those things within us that undermine the faithfulness of our spiritual lives.

This Lent may we learn more of “Sumoud,” and apply it in our spiritual lives.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Luke’s Gospel tells of how you set your face resolutely towards Jerusalem though you knew what would be waiting for you there. Teach us that same steadfastness, that we might be willing to tackle the difficult issues where justice and peace are hard to find.  This Lent tech us   “Sumoud.”  Amen.

 

Devotion written by Rev. John Howard, Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel, from the Methodist Church in Britain.

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent 18 December 2016

“Tell Out, My Soul” verse 4

Tell out, my soul, the glories of God’s word!

Firm is the promise and God’s mercy sure;

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord

to children’s children and forever more!

By Timothy Dudley-Smith

 

Matthew 1:21-23

“‘She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’  All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:  ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’”

Promises, promises!  How many promises have been made to the people of this land?  Promises of good will, promises of return, promises of peace.  And how many of these promises have been kept?

advent-pic-treePalestinians were forced out of their homes in 1948, many with the promise that they would be allowed to return within a few weeks, but almost 70 years later there is still no return.  Oslo promised a Palestinian state in 5 years, and yet, 23 years later, the people are still longing for a state of their own.  How easy it is to become cynical when we hear another promise being made, especially when we look back at all the broken promises that we have experienced.

But the hymn above tells us, “Firm is the promise and God’s mercy sure.”  Why should we believe that?  I remember a professor of mine, a Catholic priest, who taught us about “memory, imagination and anticipation” as a way of living and practicing our faith in God.  Memory – recalling how God has acted in the past; Imagination – trusting that the same God is acting in the present moment; Anticipation – believing that this same God will be with us in the same way in the future.

The Christmas story is one of great promises, beginning with promises to the prophets of a coming Messiah, then of a child to the virgin Mary, and to the shepherds a promise of peace and goodwill to all people.

The promises of God are firm and sure.  They are not like manmade promises.  They can be trusted.  God’s promise came to us at Christmas in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem.  His promise is one of peace and goodwill for all people.  Let us work together with God at making this promise a reality.

Lord, help us to trust you as we look around and see a broken world.  May your promises strengthen our faith and give us hope.  Amen.   

 

Devotion written by Tina Whitehead, Member of the Western Pennsylvania United Methodist Conference, Individual Volunteer serving in Palestine and Israel for 10 years.

Picture:  An olive tree coming back to life in the midst of a demolished village. The promise of hope.  Picture credit:  Tina Whitehead.

Advent Wreath:  Candle holders are olive wood Bethlehem Star, the Candles are placed in tear gas canisters, the olive wall panels represent the wall around Bethlehem and many other areas in the West Bank area of Palestine (available through the YWCA of Jerusalem), the green carpet is made by women from the Negev, and the scarfs represent men and women.  Photo taken by Kristen L. Brown 

Third Sunday of Advent 10 December 2016

Tell Out, My Soul   -by Timothy Dudley-Smith

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of God’s might!

Powers and dominions lay their glory by;

Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,

The hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

Mary’s response to Elizabeth now known as the “Magnificat” or Mary’s song of praise and thanksgiving is a thread woven into the fabric of faith.  God, in God’s way has shown us grace and compassion in the incarnation through a girl named Mary.

This song reminds us of what God has done and is doing.  Who is this Mary?  We may often think of Mary, a simple girl… however, her role in the life of Jesus is so much more.

20151216_102356-copyWe realize that Mary is a blessing to all generations, from the past to the present and into the future.  The word used in the Hebrew is Brukha which is a blessing… but what if we look at “blessing” in the Hebrew form of Ishar an active verb “to go straight, a call to do something to make a change in the world.”*  Mary accepted the gift of Brukha blessing to be a blessing for all generations, and she Ishar did something in the process.  She agreed to be active in the life of Jesus.  She raised him, nurtured him, cared for him, cried over him, laughed with him, taught him, and most of all, she loved him.

Women and men in every place in the world are tasked to do something to make a change in the world.  The “Marys,” the ordinary women (and men), in Bethlehem today, even while living in the midst of occupation continue to work for change and justice in our world by loving, nurturing, caring, and teaching their children to live lives with faith, compassion and love.

Prayer:  Lord of love, we give you thanks for Mary and the action of her love.  Help all of us live our lives in action as we seek to serve and work for justice in the world.  Bless the work of men and women who seek to serve at home and around the world.  Amen.

 

*Notes from a talk by Archbishop Elias Chacour on going deeper with the Beatitudes from Matthew 5.

Devotion written by Rev. Kristen L. Brown, Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel, serving through the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church

Picture credit: Rev. Kristen L. Brown, picture of the Wall of Separation in Bethlehem, graffiti on the wall of 3 Marys designed by Rev. Steve Braudt.

Advent Wreath:  Candle holders are olive wood Bethlehem Star, the Candles are placed in tear gas canisters, the olive wall panels represent the wall around Bethlehem and many other areas in the West Bank area of Palestine (available through the YWCA of Jerusalem), the green carpet is made by women from the Negev, and the scarfs represent men and women.  Photo taken by Kristen L. Brown 

Second Sunday of Advent, 4 December 2016

Tell Out My Soul, by Timothy Dudley-Smith

“Tell out, my soul, the greatness of is name!

Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;

His mercy sure, from age to age the same;

His holy name – the Lord, the Mighty One.”

 

 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord;  make his paths straight.’”  

Matthew 3:1-12

Without doubt, John the Baptist anticipated the might, power and strength Jesus will carry through His presence to everyone He encounters.  John called the people to repent, to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight!  He was the prophetic voice that pointed to Jesus;  He was the one who wanted to decrease so that Jesus might increase. John got it right!

In the same manner, living in a highly volatile land, we have no choice but to be the prophetic voice to our communities and churches.  During this advent season and beyond, our hearts are inspired

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Star Street in Bethlehem

to seek peace and justice in every action we do and every place we go.  Our words should be to build, encourage and support and to lead people to draw closer to God exactly like John.  In doing so, we must seek to repent of anything that hinders our relationship with whom whose sandals we are not worthy to carry.

Like John, we ought to ask the Lord for strength to bear fruit in keeping with repentance; for faith to see the hard stones turning into living ones, living stones that witness to the Lord and His work in this land where “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power…”  It is Jesus who “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10: 38) We can do nothing without God by our side, when God is in our midst, miracles happen, lives are transformed, broken hearts are healed, souls are saved, the good news is being shared; we can then all believe and see for ourselves that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  This should be our dream and vision; as we lift Jesus up, as we glorify Him, we will advance the work of the Kingdom.  And on that day, when we behold the lamb in all his glory, when our faces gaze upon his majesty, we will know that it was worth it all!

Let us pray, Lord, in our weakness, help us be the voice of change, love, peace and joy for our nations. Use us, transform us, guide us to point people to you; Jesus Christ, the Hope of Glory, the Light of the world and the savior to all.  Amen.

Devotion written by Michael Arteen

General Board of Global Ministries missioner serving as campus minister at Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem, Palestine

Photo Credit:  Star Street is one of Bethlehem’s oldest commercial streets, connecting the northern part of the Old City to the southern part.  As I walk through this street, I am always reminded that as Christ’s followers we ought to prepare the way for the coming of our King.  It is a narrow street, that also makes me aware that following Jesus is not always the easiest path, however, whilst walking our journey on earth; Jesus will always be holding our hand as we follow that bright shining star.  Photo taken by Michael Arteen

Advent Wreath:  Candle holders are olive wood Bethlehem Star, the Candles are placed in tear gas canisters, the olive wall panels represent the wall around Bethlehem and many other areas in the West Bank area of Palestine (available through the YWCA of Jerusalem), the green carpet is made by women from the Negev, and the scarfs represent men and women.  Photo taken by Kristen L. Brown 

First Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2016

Tell Out My Soul” verse 1

“Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord!

Unnumbered blessings gave my spirit voice;

Tender to me the promise of God’s word;

In God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.”

by Timothy Dudley-Smith

Isaiah 2 1-5

1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  2  Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills;  and all nations shall flow to it.

3 Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob;  He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”  For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Advent Hope is an annual gift as we prepare for Christmas.  The love that led to the incarnation inspires a hope that can triumph over even the mostly bleak of prospects.  This year in the town of Jesus’s birth there is a need for advent-pic-wallthat hope perhaps as much as in any year of history.  Far from “beating their swords into plowshares” the powers plan on how to use 38 billion dollars to buy arms for the Israeli army – while the plight of Palestinians goes unreported.  There is a palpable sense of hopelessness in the West Bank with a sense that there is now even less hope that the conflict will be resolved in a just settlement on a two state basis.  Yet into that situation of despair comes the prospect of a birth.  God has not deserted God’s people, God weeps at the cruelty of “man’s inhumanity to man,” yet still God so loves the world that he gives his Son, God incarnate.  The angels sing of peace and the Shepherds and Magi search for the hope of humankind.  As we begin Advent once more may the thirst for justice be renewed.  Perhaps this year truly peace on earth might be achieved…  “Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord!”

Picture:   A Children’s Playground in the shadow of the separation barrier.  At a convent on the Mount of Olives there is a nursery serving local families who used to relate to Bethany and to the E-Sheikh area on the Mount of Olives.  The separation barrier was built through the ground of the convent and now the convent uses the wall as a boundary for its children’s playground.  Access from Bethany is no longer possible.  Photo credit:  Revd.  John Howard.

Written by Revd. John Howard.  Mission Partner, Methodist Church in Britain, Serving in the Methodist Liaison Office, Jerusalem.