• DEVOTIONS \ Dec 20, 2023
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    "On Christmas Night: Hatred Vanishes, War Buried, Love Born!" By Dr. Rula Khoury Mansour
This Christmas season, our hearts carry the weight of sorrow and hope, resonating with the cries from a war-torn land where sadness, anger, and hatred prevail. As we mourn the innocent lives lost—both Palestinians and Israelis, especially children and women—we find ourselves immersed in a scene reminiscent of the biblical context into which Christ was born: a time of darkness, suffering, oppression, and brutality.
 
The echoes of despair and grief ring loudly, much like the biblical verse: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). Yet, amid this despair, we are reminded of the profound promise that the birth of Christ, the savior, brought—a promise of a brighter future.
 
Jesus emerges as the Prince of Peace in a world torn by turmoil and division, tearing down the walls that separate us, offering redemption, salvation, and the assurance that we are not alone, for Emmanuel means 'God is with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
 
This Christmas, as we navigate our grief, we hold on to two divine gifts: the presence of God and the gift of hope.
 
Jesus, who came to be present with us, walks with the oppressed, the marginalized, the sick, the children, and the outcasts. In the valley of the shadow of death, His healing and comforting presence bring hope to the suffering people—a hope that transcends earthly disappointments. Amid our pain and losses, we hold on to the promise that the current devastation is not the end of the story. God continues to write the next chapter, and those who trust in Him believe that His goodness ensures He is not only with us in our suffering but will bring justice and right all wrongs.
 
This Christmas, as we grieve, confront our fears, and accept our losses, it is not without hope. The gift of hope looks forward beyond our hardships, trusting in God's complete sovereignty over tragedies and injustice. Despite the pain, we continue to believe that light can be reborn from the womb of darkness. Through us, Jesus will tear down the walls that separate us, inspiring us to resist evil with good and hatred with love, paving the way for a brighter future where Israelis and Palestinians peacefully live side by side.
 
The heart-rending lyrics of "Laylat Al-Milad" (On Christmas Night), the song Arab Christian children sing every Christmas, becomes a harmonious backdrop to our devotion. The verses, like a prophetic melody, declare the transformative power of Christmas:
 
On Christmas night, hatred vanishes  
On Christmas night, the earth blooms
On Christmas night, war is buried   
On Christmas night, love is born 
 

As we embrace the message of "Laylat Al-Milad," may it serve as a reminder that Christmas carries a universal call to action:

When we offer a glass of water to a thirsty person, we are in Christmas
When we clothe a naked person with a gown of love, we are in Christmas
When we wipe the tears from weeping eyes, we are in Christmas
When we cushion a hopeless heart with love, we are in Christmas
When I kiss a friend without hypocrisy, I am in Christmas
When the spirit of revenge dies in me, I am in Christmas
When hardness is gone from my heart, I am in Christmas
When my soul melts in the being of God, I am in Christmas
(Fr. Mansour Labaki)
 

The song's verses reflect the transformative power of love, urging us to extend compassion and kindness, not just within ourselves but to the war-torn lands yearning for peace. In the face of darkness, may our collective efforts be the light that guides the way to a better future.

In the spirit of Christmas, let us not forget our responsibility as a global community. Just as the song speaks of love being born on Christmas, may the international community be inspired to intervene, to extend a hand in bringing an end to the Israel-Gaza war, and to foster a lasting peace. Christmas reminds us that love, born amid hatred, can transcend borders and heal wounds.

May we become beacons of hope and instruments of His love not only in our immediate surroundings but on the global stage. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let us actively embody the true message of Christmas—a message that resonates with compassion, humility, justice, and peace.

May we remember that the story of God-with-us is not just about Christ breaking down the wall of hostility between humanity and God, but also an invitation for us to co-work with Him in breaking down the barriers that divide us from one another.

Throughout the Christmas season and beyond, let us be carriers of God’s presence, inspiring and seeking hope and peace wherever we go, bringing comfort and healing to places, situations, and lives we touch.

 

Dr. Rula Khoury Mansour is the founder and director of Nazareth Center for Peace Studies and Associate Professor at Nazareth Evangelical College
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