Contributed by LUMO project

Broken But Not Forgotten

With a broken heart, I follow the news of the war in Gaza. In my natural human weakness, I too am often afraid, particularly when thinking of my beloved ones in such a highly volatile context. Furthermore, all the uncertainties this brings weigh heavily on my heart. I cannot but lament.

The global church should also lament with the suffering church, possibly using Psalms of Lament. We can’t simply continue with our lives without acknowledging this. We need to pause and lament.

Next Is What?

The Christmas message offers encouragement to us at this time.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LordLuke 2: 10

The events surrounding this verse took place near my home. The place where I was born and raised. Notably, growing up I remember going to the Shepherd’s field in Beit Shaour (Literally the House of Watching- named after the Shepherd watching their Sheep), 5 km south of Bethlehem. 

I would always reflect on these beautiful words articulated more than two thousand years ago: ‘Do not be afraid!’  God’s Word remains the same to us today. Yet, we live in a time and season where many seem to be afraid, afraid for their lives, afraid to lose their loved ones, afraid of what may come next. 

We Are Voiceless

A glance around us is enough to suggest that things on the ground are alarming. As a result, for the first time in modern history, there will be no Christmas tree or Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem. The birth of the Prince of Peace will be celebrated through holy services only.

Even as we are near Christmas, tears continue to run down my cheeks. Consequently, as Christians, comprising less than one per cent of the population, we struggle to find a voice, to find healing, and to rise out of the ashes. Dignity and honour have become alien words.

What Can We As A Church Do?

In a time when I feel helpless, and the church seems to feel helpless, I propose the following suggestions for the church to rise at this time, for the righteous to see his face, and for the church to help cast out fear.

The Healing Of The Nations

Moreover, the healing of the nations is crucial in moments as unbearable as this one. We continue to feel the Spirit interceding with sighs too deep for words. The church needs to be reminded of these scriptures, Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers (reconcilers), Revelation 22:2 – that the leaves of the tree of life will heal the nations, 2 Chronicles 7:14 – heal our land, Acts 2:17-18 – Lord, pour out your Spirit. 

In addition, Christians worldwide should say no to stereotyping, and violent rhetoric taking place. The church should represent the truth, and not buy into media portrayals that often distort reality. The church should adopt kingdom values of peacebuilding, a departure from worldly wisdom, and a renewed commitment to the teachings of Christ, who himself suffered. 

Comfort Your People, Lord!

How can we sing the song of the Lord in an alien land? We shall weep, mourn and lament. We shall also repent, praying for strength not to be afraid. It is unusual to talk about lament when we should be talking about joy, hope, and peace on earth. But Rachel also wept for her children and refused to be comforted. “Comfort your people Lord,” is my heart’s cry.

A Glimmer Of Hope! 

Looking to the future, we have to hold tight to every glimmer of hope we can find, whether in the ruins of the church, or the ethos of the theological education institution, we must continue to pray – fervently, without ceasing, and trust in God’s sovereignty – even when death and despondency lurk like a shadow and we cannot shake them off, and seek His mercy – which we all need. 

We need to spend time in prayer in our different ecclesial traditions and liturgies, giving ourselves to mourning, searching for ways to address the unbearable pain, the ongoing loss of precious lives, the ongoing grief, the ongoing conflict, and the agony of the soul. 

Theologically we should always believe that hope will come out of such complex situations, even when we cannot see with our own eyes of faith.
In conclusion, may the Lord remind us to keep our eyes focused on the real meaning of Christmas, and may the Lord use us to bless His people as we pray for better days to come. Emmanuel, God is with us.

Dr. Grace Al-Zoughbi is a guest writer for Barnabas Today