‘Tis the season ~ It is advent once again ~ the season of waiting, the season of preparation … The streets of Bethlehem ~ that “little town” of ancient myth and story ~ take on the festive look of Christmas. Santa makes his appearance on the busy thoroughfares. Carols can be heard in tourist shops on Manger Square. The Church of the Nativity is lit with the colors of the season. In the light of the full moon, all is aglow.
But the events of the past weeks clamour to be acknowledged and call for pause and reflection. A line from the much loved carol plays in my head ~ “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” ~ Shhh … Let’s listen … Fears: bombs are dropped on Gaza; feelings of hopelessness and desperation as children watch vivid images on TV; expressions of anger and frustration as youth from refugee camps throw stones at 9+ meter high concrete towers representing an illegal occupation; stone throwers run for cover as Israeli army responds with teargas and streams of sewage water; an 8 meter high wall blocks access; soldiers “guard” the way; Will we ever be free? ~ Hopes: A ceasefire! Will it hold? The vast majority of the world’s countries support the UN bid that could pave the way for Palestinian sovereignty. Could it really happen? Could we hear each other into speech? Could we build mutual trust? Could we learn to live together in peace? Could our children know something other than war and occupation?
The names and the costumes have changed, but some things remain the same. Now as then, the people of this storied town suffer under an illegal, cruel occupation ~ Now as then, there is “no room in the inn” or in our hearts ~ no room for “the other,” no room for justice, no room for acceptance, no room for trust, no room for love ~ Now as then, humanity yearns for justice, for security, for love, for freedom, for peace ~ Now as then, we wait.
The age old song rings down through the millennia: “Peace on earth, goodwill for all!” But, long after the songs of the angels have faded into silence, the questions remain: What will it take for peace to come to all on earth? We wait, but for what? Surely we can’t sit passively by and wait for something or someone out there to come and fix the mess we have made. Could it be that we are the ones we have been waiting for? ~ In the words of the carol, the holy waits to be born in us! What is it that we need to clear away in order to make room for new birth?
This advent, as we acknowledge our common hopes and fears, may we recognize the holy that has already been born in each and every person. And may we open to the holy that still waits to be born in each of us ~ again and again ~ even as we seek to make of our lives a light in the dark, an embodiment of love, an instrument of peace ~ not only in this season of advent but every day.