Tuesday, October 23
Christmas in Bethlehem is actually more of a Christmas Eve event than it is a December 25 one. On Christmas Eve, Palestinian Scout troops (both young men and women) from all across the West Bank come together to parade through the streets. Wearing uniforms trimmed in the colors of the Palestinian flag, they play Christmas carols on bagpipes, drums, flutes, clarinets, and horns. They march through Manger Square and under the ancient archway that is said to have been the main entrance into Bethlehem in ancient times. According to tradition, this is most likely the route that Mary and Joseph would have taken when they entered the "little town'' some 2,000 years ago.
On Christmas Eve, banners strung up in various parts of the city proudly proclaim, "We welcome you on your journey, as we welcomed the Prince of Peace - Pray for the Freedom of Palestine.''
In the afternoon, the crowd swells as everyone awaits the arrival of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. His entry into the city heralds the arrival of the Christmas season. The festivities pause for only a few, brief moments as the Muslim call to prayer resounds from the mosque across the square.
As darkness descends, the carnival atmosphere on and around Manger Square swells to fever pitch, while inside the ancient basilica known as the Church of the Nativity and in neighboring St. Catherine's Church, religious services commence with prayers, hymns, and Scripture recalling the ancient, biblical story of Christ's birth. Christmas has come to Bethlehem once again.
Let us join in prayer for:
Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East: The Rt. Rev. Suhail Dawani, bishop * Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land: The Rt. Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, bishop * Greek (Melkite) Catholic Church of the East: Archbishop Elias Chacour, Greek Catholic (Melkite) bishop of Haifa, Nazareth, Akko, and all the Galilee * Ahli Arab Hospital, Gaza: Ms. Suhaila Tarazi, director * Al-Diyar Consortium and the International Center of Bethlehem: Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, general director * Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, Gaza * B'Tselem - the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: Ms. Jessica Montell, director * East Jerusalem YMCA * The Friends School, Ramallah: Joyce Ajlouni, director * The Middle East Council of Churches' ?Refugee Vocational Training Programs and Health/Well-Baby Clinics, Gaza: Dr. Issa Tarazi, executive secretary * The Middle East Council of Churches' Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees: Dr. Bernard Sabella, executive secretary * Palestine Children's Relief Fund: Mr. Steve Sosebee, president * SABEEL Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem: Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, director * St. Luke's Hospital, Nablus: Mr. Mazen Kawa, administrative director * Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Advanced Theological Studies: Father Timothy Lowe, director * Wi'am-Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center: Mr. Zoughbi Zoughbi, director
PC(USA) Agencies' Staff
Michelle Schulz, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Babe of Bethlehem, Prince of Peace, come into our hearts, we pray. Child of Nazareth, help us to grow in the knowledge of you and your will for us. Man of Galilee, fill us with compassion and wisdom, that our lives might be a witness for you. Crucified Christ, give us courage so that we are not silent in the face of injustice, oppression, and evil. Risen Lord, make us worthy in your sight to share in your promised glory of resurrection and newness of life eternal. Amen.