Advent Hope at Christmas Lutheran Church of Bethlehem

Advent Hope at Christmas Lutheran Church of Bethlehem

Written by the Week of Compassion

At Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, there are angels crafted from glass – broken glass gathered from the streets of the city after the Second Intifada, during which Israeli troops besieged and bombed the city for 40 days. They are a symbol of hope, of the possibilities for beauty and a peaceful future, even from the brokenness and violence that is and has been the reality in Israel/Palestine and much of the Middle East.

Cultivating such hope is the calling of Christmas Lutheran Church and their ministry and Week of Compassion partner, the Diyar Consortium. Through programs like youth academies, adult learning opportunities, a cultural center, and the Religion and State project, Diyar promotes encounter, education, community, and peace. Rev. Dr. Victor Makari, who serves at Diyar with support from Global Ministries, says of the impact of the work: “Grace is what gives people hope. Hope is what we do today.”

For this reason, Diyar works to connect people, especially young Christians, who are doing things in society. Diyar celebrates their efforts, connecting and educating young leaders, providing opportunities for the cross-pollination of ideas. Of particular emphasis is the engagement of young people as citizens in the region, for, as the president of Diyar, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb states, “If we can influence those who are training the next generation of leaders in the Middle East, it will trickle down to the society.” Because of the realities of violence in the region, especially the occupation in Palestine, unemployment is extremely high in a region where the population is made up of roughly 50% youth and young adults. The lack of opportunities creates a context in which radicalization and emigration are common.

Through youth academies and conferences, Diyar strives to counteract these effects by giving youth purpose, direction, and a context to develop and use their voices and skills. The Religion and State project, for example, connects youth, who participate in leadership training, with leading academics in the region to organize around issues of peace-building, development, religion, and politics. These connections help empower youth to positive changes in their own communities.

This Advent season, as we anticipate the celebration of the incarnation, we recall that it was into “a time like this, war & tumult of war,” when things seem to be falling apart, when the glass lay shattered in the streets, that the hope of the world was and is born in Bethlehem. We offer our prayers for our partners at Diyar and Christmas Lutheran Church of Bethlehem, as they work to bearers of hope and bringers of peace.

“Into The Darkest Hour”

by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss –
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight –
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

To hear more about the work of Diyar, join for a webinar with Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, hosted by Global Ministries as part of the Middle East Initiative – 12:00 p.m. EST Monday, Dec. 12. Click Here to Register.