(Brooke’s generosity Blog)
December 29, 2019
Jesus was born in the Middle East. Today, Bethlehem is located in the West Bank and is cut off from Jerusalem with a high wall and checkpoints. When Mary and Joseph walked from Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate baby Jesus it took about an hour. Today the same walk for a Palestinian could take all day because delays at checkpoints regularly run into hours.
Jesus looked Middle Eastern because he was Middle Eastern. Today, Jesus would have close inspections every time he tried to get on an air plane. If he lived in North America, he would have experienced discrimination. He might have had difficulty finding a job.
There was suffering in the Middle East 2000 years ago. There is suffering today.
Christians hold a minority status in the greater Middle East. As the birthplace of Christianity the Middle East contains a significant Christian population of 12 million people. Christmas remains an important religious festival in the region and is widely celebrated by Christians and Muslims alike.
Although Christmas is nominally a Christian tradition, in today’s globalised world, many cultures join in.
Several Muslim countries also join in with the celebrations, with many Muslim families using the day as an excuse to get together, eat and be merry.
In Syria, children traditionally had to wait until New Year’s Day to receive their presents, which they were told would be brought to them by the youngest camel in the caravan that brought the Three Wise Men to attend the birth of Jesus. Children leave offerings of hay and water in anticipation of the camels’ arrival, much like some family’s tradition of leaving cookies for Santa and a sugar cube for the reindeer. (Some families leave a small sample of single malt for Santa!)
A Middle Eastern Christmas feast is an important part of the celebrations. This can include chicken, nuts, sweet pastries and oranges. This year, at this moment, hundreds of thousands are in refugee camps. Some are hoping and praying that they can go home soon. Some are waiting for news of acceptance to go to a safe country such as Canada. Most are praying for peace and just want to go home.
Jesus would have looked like some of the pictures we see of child refugees. He was a refugee himself in Egypt when his family took him there to save his life. Most families who are refugees today are making the same decision that Mary and Joseph made. There are three choices. One: Stay and die. Two: Fight. Three:Leave with your vulnerable children.
Most people choose to leave. We pray for refugees and give to support relief efforts through Presbyterian World Service and Development. We long for peace, with justice for all in the Middle East. The land of the birth of Jesus needs the wisdom and grace of Jesus for all to thrive.
For Jesus’ sake, please give generously.