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Christmas 2003 brings new hope for peace in the Middle East soon

By S Ross Jones - posted Monday, 22 December 2003

O little town of Bethlehem, City of David, least of all the tribes of Jacob, can anything good come from you this year? Will this truly be a year in which history will say you began your reign of peace, justice, and harmony?

It is far too early to tell but there are some interesting signs. There is a flurry of international diplomatic activity over the future of both Israel and Palestine as even the upper levels of Israeli government grapple with the implications of the Separation Wall. There seems to be some return of tourism as the world intuitively senses that both sides have recognized the bankruptcy of violence as a way forward.

The Good Lord may even now be wagging his finger at the Middle East, saying "I told you so. Why wouldn't you listen to me to begin with?" Why indeed? What is there about human nature that makes us so certain our own way is the most effective one, even when the history of the world says the opposite. Humans are wonderfully effective at designing computers or automobiles or anything else that eases a workload. We are frustratingly ineffective at dealing with each other, at recognizing that human happiness is closer to God's heart and plan than human possessions. Violence over who owns the Middle East has destroyed everyone's happiness here. Thousands have been killed and many more thousands have had their lives changed irrevocably; sorrow has become a way of life.


And who really thinks the Middle East is unique? Our greatest hope is that humanity has grown weary of violence and is ready to listen. Had the world not been ready to listen to Jesus, we may never have heard of him. Yet we have done a good job of not listening for these many years.

Many say it is wrong for religion to mix with politics or civil rights, that religion is supposed to make us feel good while we close our eyes to a world that so desperately needs to hear that ALL people are God's children and He loves us all-good or bad, right or wrong, friend or enemy, stiff-necked or not. Surely the folly of our own “stiff-neckedness” is now laid bare and we are ready to listen.

O little town of Bethlehem, City of David, least of all the tribes of Jacob, can anything good come from you this year? You have already given us David and Jesus. Dare we pray for more after corrupting your creation so badly? The Lord has already answered: "Unto you a Child is born, a son is given." That Child is born anew each year with the birth of every infant, for each has the potential to lead us into God's New World. Indeed, as the world itself is born anew with each infant, so we ourselves are being re-born in Bethlehem. Let us nurture this Child unto whom all nations shall come. May God open every Child's eyes and ears, giving strength to encounter a deaf and blind world. May we all, like Jesus, "increase in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour" to hear your call.

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About the Author

The Very Reverend S Ross Jones is Dean of St. George's College Jerusalem.

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