ELCJHL Bishop’s Christmas Message 2021
Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
“How beautiful… are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘your God reigns.’” (Isaiah 52:7-10).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ, and Merry Christmas from the Holy Land!
This Christmas finds many of us continuing to live in difficult conditions, especially the ongoing COVID pandemic that has brought so much human suffering and uncertainty about the future. Here in the Holy Land, we hope that many of us will be able to gather together for Christmas in ways we have longed for and missed; yet we know that in other places, new lockdowns and restrictions will keep loved ones apart. We thank God for the vaccines and the community cooperation that will allow us to celebrate Christmas with less fear of COVID, and that we hope will allow pilgrims and visitors to return and help to restore the economy. At the same time, other difficulties are increasing. This year we have seen the homes of Palestinians in East Jerusalem threatened, a fresh wave of devastation rained down on the people of Gaza, and new obstacles put in place for organizations that work for the human rights of Palestinian children and adults. Once again, the Palestinian people—and all people—need good news more than ever.
Yet we take comfort, precisely because we know that Christmas is coming. The miracle of Christmas, the incarnation of Jesus as God’s “Word made flesh,” reminds us of God’s presence with us in all circumstances, and God’s promise that none of us is alone. After all, Jesus was not born alone: his birth brought together Mary and Joseph, shepherds and magi, heaven and earth. Jesus’ life brought together Jews and Gentiles, fishermen and tax collectors, rich and poor, men and women, young and old. And Jesus’ death and resurrection brought the whole world together in God’s love, defeating the power of sin and death to separate us from God and from each other.
This is the meaning of Christmas that brings us hope and joy. The power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our church, and in our community means that whatever the difficulties of these current times, the situation does not make us—we make the situation. We go on with our ministry, with our lives. We go on with hope, with faith in God, knowing that we are not alone. And we go on in thankfulness for you, our many partners in the Gospel around the world. You have also felt the hardships of this time; but you have remained faithful in your own ministries, in your prayer, and in your support of the ELCJHL as we reach out to love and serve our neighbors through education, health care, diaconal ministry, and more. We give thanks to God for you.
Isaiah wrote of the beautiful feet of the messenger who brings good news of peace, salvation, and the reign of God. Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, brought that message throughout our land and among our people. Today, each of us as a member of the body of Christ shares in this holy and wondrous calling: to be the hands and feet of Christ, bearing good news to the world. This Christmas, I give thanks for the “beautiful feet” of the ELCJHL, and for you, our partners and church companions, as we walk on in faith, hope, and love for one another and for all people.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Kul sane wa intou salmeen.