Friday, December 25, 2015

How born again Christians can wish Merry Christmas to Israel

In the world but not of it... alas, this is the fate of every son and daughter of God. There is always - as long as we are on this side of eternity and this side of the Kingdom's coming - a tension in the heart of the believer; to be and think like the world or to think as priest and king of the Kingdom of our Father. I can speak for hours about this, but today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, born in a real town, in a real land, a real place, that today still exists, whose descendants are the real children of everything we so nostalgically enjoy during Christmas.

Wishing you a thoughtful, Merry Christmas!
photo courtesy of Ricardo Cuppini, Flickr.
And yet these descendants I speak of are living in a nightmare. I speak not only of Palestinians - and yes they are the descendants of those who lived in the Land when the first Christmas happened - I speak of those on the other side of the wall. Did you know that today a wall separates the lands of Bethlehem from the lands of Nazareth? That to walk the same paths Jesus walked, you'd have to a see a thousand machine guns (all pointed at you by the way), countless checkpoints with tanks and jeeps and armored soldier - it's an experience that's doubly surreal; on the one hand retracing the steps of your Savior, but on the other witnessing something so alien to many who live in the Western lands of freedom and peace. In the East, where you are born and what family your come from is for most what you will be and believe. In the West, it is not so. There is freedom in every sense of the world and - though many conservatives are loathe to admit - a very strong moral foundation to this freedom (the fact that conservatives are still so popular is a testament to this).

Born again Christians, especially in the US, are sadly, for the most part, out of touch of reality when it comes to what life is like in Israel. Here is a country that occupies another, a country of two peoples who are really one people but have forgotten this truth. A country of walls and no hope of peace on either side of these walls. And yet the people who say they follow Jesus are unwittingly keeping things like this instead of becoming the blessed peacemakers Jesus spoke of. Instead of encouraging Jews and Arabs, both descendants of Israel in the land of Israel, to heal the century's wounds and reconcile in a painful but liberating process, they encourage the continuation of an occupation that occupies both the occupier and the occupied!

And while you ponder these things, perhaps there is a real reason why the world's huge born again community of the US still has not grasped the real situation the Christmasy, nostalgic land of Jesus' birth. Perhaps they have been unable to become peacemakers far over the seas, because they have not yet discovered how to make peace within their own lands - within their cities and across their imaginary walls of segregation. 

It's true Jesus said He didn't come to make peace. He can set us on fire that would divide not unite. Yet this fire He speaks of, is the fire of the Spirit - burning our bonds to a fallen world and forging out of those fire a new creation, not of the dust of the earth, but of the Spirit of our Father in Heaven! 

I hope you will reconsider this Christmas how you go about seeing your neighbor, far or near, wherever you are. The Divine Incarnate, Creator of everything, came on this night 2000 years ago. He came to bring a Kingdom where there not only would be real peace and justice and no evil, but one in which peace finally would reign in our torn and confused souls as well.

Wishing you peace and a Merry Christmas,
David Roiel

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