Is Christmas a Season for ‘Peace talkers’ or ‘Peacemakers’?

Palestinian youth activists in Santa Claus suits decorate a tree symbolizing the Israeli separation wall with barbed wire and spent concussion grenades to educate Christmas tourists passing through Bethlehem's Manger Square.

Palestinian youth activists in Santa Claus suits decorate a tree symbolizing the Israeli separation wall with barbed wire and spent tear gas grenades to educate Christmas tourists passing through Bethlehem’s Manger Square. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

by Rev. Mitri Raheb

Few years ago while traveling in China, I was asked by a student in one of the schools: “What if Jesus was to be born today?” I replied: “If Jesus were to be born this year, he would not be born in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph might not be allowed to enter from the checkpoint, and so too the Magi, while the shepherds will be stuck inside the walls and can’t leave their little town. Jesus might have been born on the checkpoint like so many Palestinian children while the Magi and shepherds would be on both sides of the wall.”

Am I confusing you with the “nice” Christmas story? Christmas has become a “nice” feast of “a sort of peace” that no one really can fully describe. In fact, it is kind of a “cheap peace”, which is something to preach about when one is not well prepared, or a bit of wishful thinking, when one is not ready to do much. Christmas has become a season for “joyful peace talkers,” rather than “blessed peacemakers”.

In our Palestinian context, “peace talk” is often a good recipe for managing the conflict rather than resolving it. As the world continues to talk peace, Israel continues to build the wall and while Christians continue singing “O little town of Bethlehem”, Israel makes sure that this town stays as little as possible. As little as a 2 square miles open air prison surrounded with walls, fences and trenches with no future expansion possibilities whatsoever. … +Click here to continue reading Rev. Mitri Raheb’s biblical reflection on “Christmas, Peace and the Wall” on page 17 of the Kairos Palestine Advent resource

Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth is an initiative of Palestinian Christians from a wide spectrum of traditions and denominations to call for a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Its authors and endorsers include many MCC partners, and MCUSA has encouraged study of the Kairos Palestine document as a guide to the church’s engagement with these issues.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb is pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, and president of the Diyar Consortium

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