ELCJHL Bishop offers message at tree lighting ceremony at Bethany Beyond Jordan baptismal site
Greeting for the lighting of the 2015 Christmas Tree at the Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan
Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those whom he favors.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
First of all, to the representative of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Hussein,
To the Minister of Tourism,
To the mayor of Amman,
To the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden,
To the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
To Bishop Gloria Rojas of Chile,
To your Excellencies and your Graces,
To all our beloved people,
May I begin in your name and in the name of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. I send my deepest thanks and gratitude His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Hussein for honoring us with this Royal Hashemite Kingdom Patronage for the lighting of the Christmas Tree here at the Baptismal Site of Jesus.
The honor of this patronage means many things for us: 2
First, we give thanks that the lighting of a Christmas tree at the Baptismal Site can be a joyful feast for all people.
Secondly, this event demonstrates that Jordan is a model for living together as one people in one country, even though we have different faiths. Together we can light this tree and declare “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to our homeland, and may happiness and tranquility be upon us.” We are thankful that the mayor of Amman has given us the gift of an olive tree which is four hundred years old. By planting this tree here at the Baptismal Site we announce to the world that the roots of our shared life together go back 1,400 years. By God’s grace, our shared life together will continue as steadfast as this olive tree which we have planted. We stand ready to share with other countries our experiences in living together peacefully as Christians and Muslims.
The honor of the King’s patronage also means for us that Jordanian Christians are an integral part of this one kingdom. We built this country by our loyal citizenship and by a responsible nationalism, and we continue to contribute to it as equal and responsible citizens. As we light this tree we joyfully decorate our country with our loyal belonging, so that Jordan may continue to be the symbol of tranquility, peace, development, and safety in the Middle East.
Furthermore, as we light this tree in the presence of many Lutheran bishops from around the world, and with the international board of trustees of the Lutheran Church at Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan, we want this event to tell the world that Christmas is a celebration of peace. We know that the Middle East is in need of one thing today: peace based on justice. Therefore, we ask all those who stand in the light of this tree today to go and tell the world that we in the Middle East are in need of true peace and human rights. 3
We hope that this tree-lighting will send waves of peace and light to the city of Jerusalem. We join our voices with the beloved singer Fayrouz, who sang: “By our hands the peace will return to Jerusalem.” Truly, there will be no peace in the Middle East without the peace of Jerusalem.
Finally, I would like again to send my greetings and appreciation to His Majesty Abdullah II Ibn Hussein for this patronage, and to his representative the Minister of Tourism. I thank the Ministry of Tourism for all that you have done to make this event of the lighting of the 2015 Christmas Tree a success. Whether you have come from near or far, may the One God grant you all health and blessings in the New Year. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year 2016.