Separation wall dividing Jerusalem and Bethlehem
“And the crowds asked John the Baptist, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
All Earth Is Waiting, verse 3
“Mountains and valleys will have to be made plain; open new highways, new highways for the Lord. He is now coming closer, so come all and see, and open the doorways as wide as wide can be.”
The mounting excitement in expectation for Christmas in Bethlehem is everywhere you look. You can feel the movement towards Christmas as the Christmas tree starts to go up in Manger Square, then the lights and then the official lighting of everything. There are concerts, events, and celebration almost every night as Christmas nears. When Christmas Eve finally comes, the Patriarchs of the Church enter Bethlehem by the historic route. However, to enter Bethlehem by the historic route in the midst of Occupation, they must enter through a gate that opens in the Separation Barrier.
In the third verse of “All Earth is Waiting,” the very shape of the earth is changing in expectancy of the coming of the Messiah – the mountains and valleys are leveling, new pathways are opening. How can our lives shift and change with expectancy of the coming? John gives instructions to those who seek to be baptized. His instructions reveal an expectation that those with plenty share their abundance and those with power do not use it to exploit those without. It is a vision of reducing the distance between the haves and the have-nots.
John’s instructions for actions of repentance and redemption are still relevant in our modern world. Some live with abundance while many live with very little. Power and privilege continue to dominate, creating oppression and exclusion. Yet, in Advent we celebrate that the Lord is near. Let us prepare for Christ’s coming through opening doorways to justice, peace, and hope.
Coming Messiah, help us prepare for your arrival through repentance that leads to change in ourselves and in our world. Empower us to action through the expectancy of your coming. Amen.
13 December written by Grace Killian, GBGM Global Mission Young Adult Fellow located in Bethlehem from 2013-2015. She is a lay member of the Western Pennsylvania Conference.
All photographs taken by Rev. Kristen L. Brown.