Jerusalem church hears Christmas call for active peacemaking

By agency reporter
December 26, 2012

“The prophet Isaiah promises a prince of peace who will burn all the combat boots and bloodied uniforms, stoking a fire to light the way toward justice and peace.”

That was the message of Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in her Christmas Eve sermon preached during Midnight Mass at the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr in Jerusalem.

Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil S. Dawani presided over the 24 December 2012 service, which was attended by more than 150 people.

The Very Rev Hosam Naoum, dean of the cathedral, and Bishop James Magness, the Episcopal Church’s bishop suffragan for federal ministries, were among those assisting.

Earlier, Jefferts Schori and Dawani attended Lessons and Carols services both at the YMCA Field of the Shepherds in Beit Sahour and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, both in territories under control of the Palestinian Authority. The service in Bethlehem was attended in part by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The world the prophet promised, one of peace and justice, “still feels a long way off,” the presiding bishop told the Midnight Mass congregation at St. George’s Cathedral, a centre of global pilgrimage and home to two congregations: the indigenous Palestinian Anglicans, often called the “Living Stones,” and a community of expatriate English-speaking members.

“More than 2000 years later we are still waiting and hoping and yearning for that light to banish the darkness once and for all, and deliver us from the long night. We gather on this night to celebrate the kindling of that light in human flesh – in the birth of the Holy One among us,” she said.

“We are here to remember and discover again the light that burns bright in the darkness, a light the darkness did not put out – not in this land so many years ago, nor through the years since. The darkness did not prevail; it will not and cannot overcome the light of Christ. The light continues to burn through trials and migrations, wars and plagues, political machinations and death. The light is here this night, burning still in human hearts set ablaze by God.

“The Holy One comes among us in light and darkness, when we are most in need and despair, as well as in rejoicing. God is here, Emmanuel,” said Ms Jefferts Schori.

In his Christmas message delivered at the Church of the Nativity earlier in the day, Dawani expressed his hope for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for an agreement of a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized state of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both.

He said that he hopes for a time when all people can live life in fullness. As it is now, he said, those who live in fullness have locked the doors on the others.

“Such a system plunges all of us into darkness,” Dawani said. “All of us are deserving of peace and justice ... to sit in the shade of our own dreams.”

Thanks to Lynette Wilson, an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

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