Advent Reflections from the YWCA of Palestine

The Wall and Advent

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God who brings light into dark places
in unexpected places in unexpected ways
Fill our hearts and minds with expectation of insight
into possibilities that, hope, peace, love, and joy can bring. Amen
adapted from "Come All You Faithful"

During this season of waiting and preparation, journeying and hoping, we focus our prayers on all the walls that separate and divide us, tear our lives apart, and keep us locked up or locked in. We use the traditional themes of the season: hope, peace, love, and joy as a framework to address the essential mystery of incarnation, God-with-us.

Each Sunday in Advent, you are invited to use the prayers suggested and/or reflections as you break down or knock down a piece of the wall. On Christmas Eve, when the Prince of Peace is born, there should be no more walls, fences, or barriers to separate us from God who has already broken down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:14).

“Only through the pain of a crucial childbirth will the agonies of human conflict and violence be addressed,” says poet/theologian Janet Morley. This season of Advent involves facing our fears, and a willingness to accept the dark so we can be reborn to do the work of peacemaking. We are all called to remember not only the risk of His birth, but the call to let love risk being born in us.

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The Risk of Birth, Christmas, 1973

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honor & truth were trampled by scorn –
Yet here did the Savior make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on planet earth,
and by a comet the sky is torn –
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

-Madeleine L’Engle

First Sunday

Second Sunday

Third Sunday

Fourth Sunday

Christmas Eve

 

christmas2.jpgFirst Sunday: Hope

He came down so we could have hope
Fill us and give us hope enough
to knock down the walls and barriers
that divide and separate us
Let us travel to Bethlehem
where God is born anew each day

Reflection

“It never ceases to amaze me how, every year, and as we get closer to Christmas, my burdened heart lightens up with joy and hope, as if through a miracle. I take heart from my fellow Bethlehemites, who over the ages, and through many a war and an occupation, have never failed to celebrate Christmas and to honor the newborn prince of peace and love.

My heart lightens in the shadow of the Apartheid Wall, at my doorstep in Bethlehem. The wall is a dark reminder of Israel’s occupation, an occupation that strangulates our lives, devours our land, and denies us the freedom to move and visit friends and family. It reminds me that we simply aspire to live normal lives amidst the abnormality of colonization."

-Hind Khoury, Director of Kairos Palestine in Kairos Palestine Christmas Alert, 2013

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images.jpgSecond Sunday: Peace

He came down so we could have peace
Fill us and give us peace enough
to knock down the walls and barriers
that divide and separate us
Let us travel to Bethlehem
where God is born anew each day

Reflection

“I send messages of peace from the city of peace, which literally lives no peace. Bethlehem is besieged with up-growing settlements, a horrendous wall that does not only wall the city but its spirit, its faithful, and probably the message of peace itself…

The unwilling of Bethlehem and all it represents needs a genuine reflection on the true meaning of Bethlehem and its global significance."

-From Vera Baboun, Mayor of Bethlehem in Kairos Palestine Christmas Alert, 2015

“Oh broken town of Bethlehem
your people long for peace,
but curfews, raids and closure barricades
have brought them to their knees.
Yet still they make their stand
Their hopes and fears still echo down the years
Come, heal this holy land.”

-Verse one from “Broken Town” by Martin John Nicholls dedicated to Nader Abu Amsha and staff of East Jerusalem, YMCA and Beit Sahour

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Richard-Falk-Pal-girl-photo.jpgThird Sunday: Love

He came down so we could have love
Fill us and give us love enough
to knock down the walls and barriers
that divide and separate us
Let us travel to Bethlehem
where God is born anew each day

Reflection on Mary’s Magnificat

Mary invites us all to find our song and sing it so we can prepare the way for the birth of love and justice. Mary says we should expect that this birth will turn our lives upside down and inside out. She also asks us to pray for a world without war or conflict or violence. She asks us to hold our leaders accountable for their actions and inactions---their thoughts and their deeds, their votes of support and their votes against dignity and freedom. She asks us to divest from and boycott their stranglehold of economic, social, and political power. She asks us to feed the hungry by lifting their sieges, shaking off their occupation.. She asks us to dream about the way the world would look if things were reversed, if the Beloved Community could be made manifest. She asks us to dream it in the past tense as if it were already taking place. Finally, Mary, the mother of Jesus, asks us to affirm God being born not only in her real womb but in the womb of human suffering. She asks us to imagine, to sing, and work to make it so.

-From sermon "Singing Yes" by Rev. Loren McGrail

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woman_on_wall2jpg.jpgFourth Sunday: Joy

He came down so we could have joy
Fill us and give us joy enough
to knock down the walls and barriers
that divide and separate us
Let us travel to Bethlehem
where God is born anew each day

Reflection

We are in Lidia's home, where the curtains are drawn and dark shadows are cast across the furniture. Full glasses of Coca Cola sit on a wooden tray before her. She knew that her husband was involved with the struggle when they met, she explains. That made her love him all the more.  They had been living together for just four months when he was imprisoned for his involvement in the second Intifada. Pregnant with their first child, she watched as he was taken away.

Many of Lidia's hopes for her future were dashed in that moment - including, she thought, her wish to have more children. But, in that regard, things were not as hopeless as she then imagined. "I remember when I got the [sperm] sample from my husband during our visit to him and our little daughter was with me and she said, 'Dad come on. Give us my brothers.' We were shocked, but happy and worried," Lidia explains as her 12-year-old daughter sits nearby, proudly cradling her baby brother in her lap.

After smuggling the sperm out of prison in a plastic container, Lidia took a taxi straight to the Razan Medical Center in Ramallah where she was inseminated. 

It worked. When she shared the news with her husband during a prison visit, he screamed out in joy and disbelief. Months later, Majd was born.

-From "How Palestinian Women Defy Israel’s Occupation", Al Jazeera

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6558461033-f28bdb458d-o.jpgChristmas Eve

He came down so we could have hope, peace, love and joy
Fill us and give us enough of all
to knock down the walls and barriers
that divide and separate us
Let us welcome you in Bethlehem
Let us fling wide the gates
and welcome you in our hearts
so we may be born anew
with you

Reflection

From a Lebanese Song,  Leilat al-Milad (Night of the Birth)

Verses

When we offer a drink to a thirsty person,
then we are in Christmas

When we clothe a naked person with a cloak or dress of love,
then we are in Christmas

When we wipe out tears from they eyes of those who weep,
then we are in Christmas

When we warm up or put out a mattress for somebody and the hearts are filled with hope,
then we are in Christmas

When I kiss my companion or friend without cheating,
then I will be in Christmas

When my hearts has no grudge,
then I will be in Christmas

When my soul melts in God’s being,
then I will be in Christmas

Refrain

During Christmas night no more hate
During Christmas night the soil flourishes
During Christmas night war is buried
During Christmas night love grows


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