25 December 2007 11:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece
It is good to hear that the rooms are as full in Bethlehem this year as rather more unfortunately they are around Heathrow airport. Literally translated from the Hebrew as the ‘house of bread’ I was in Bethlehem just 18 months ago and was taken by a friend who works for the United Nations to a brand new luxury hotel which was empty and deliberately trashed by the Israeli Defence Force. The conditions, the wall, the daily humiliations, economic castration and apartheid visited upon the Palestinians left me with a desire to do something positive for the Palestinian people, and that has not been an easy thing to do practically. More is needed than the gesture of disinvestment that the General Synod of the Church of England requested last year. I met a well-spoken Syrian man over dinner, who had been at my college, and who turned out to be the chief legal officer of the PLO…and also an envoy of Hamas at a beach party – both Oxbridge educated. I was rather dismissive of what I thought would amount to mere gestures from the Church of England – though both welcomed them strongly. My worry continues to be that we let ourselves off the hook by thinking that dramatic gestures are all that is required, or all that we can do…and then swiftly forget and move on. Whereas what is needed, surely, is investment: complete dedication, resolve and determination to work at the issues…and never to give up on peace, or on God’s power to deliver.
The miracle of Christmas is that whatever situation the world is in, and whatever dark situation we may find ourselves in, God never disinvests. He invests his whole being in humanity – and is one with us. Heaven and earth are met together, and God is eternally wedded to humanity. Love comes down at Christmas into a lowly stable to remind the world of its loveliness and beauty in the eyes of its creator.
We need great faith, and always to hope for more. We need renewed expectation that the light and life of the Word made flesh will bring peace. Whether it be Zimbabwe, Burma, Darfur, Iraq, Palestine…or the healing needed in the more domestic wars of broken relationships at home or work…or even the internal battles of coming to terms with who we are…each of us wonderfully created in God’s image, with all the good and bad things, advantages and limitations we have been given. There are many miracles great and small to pray for, and to do so in the knowledge that God has already spoken his Word of love, and most assuredly will continue to do so. We need not to lose faith that the world can change, must change, will change…and this faith is based on the certainty, the reality that the Saviour Christ Jesus has been born for us…based on the joy of the angel and the heavenly host who sang ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’.