for Sunday, December 11
Give thanks in all circumstances…. (1 Thess 5.18)
I have never met a Palestinian who has not lost home or lands. As you sit reading these words, many more are in the process of losing homes and land. If they have not already lost everything, they live in daily fear that bulldozers will come to tear down their homes, or that the bulldozers will tear out their olive groves to make way for a new part of Israel’s security wall.
All the Palestinians I have met have lost fathers or uncles or cousins or sons, either shot by Israeli soldiers, or serving long sentences in Israeli prisons. Human rights workers are regularly imprisoned for speaking out against Israel’s occupation. Professors are arrested for voicing their opposition to Israel’s policies.
Palestinians cannot travel without an Israeli permit. Their borders are still controlled by Israeli soldiers, even where the border is with another country, as in Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. They cannot even move freely within the West Bank because Israel has built settlements between the Palestinian towns and has set up checkpoints where Palestinians must wait in long lines to have their Israeli IDs and travel permits inspected by Israeli soldiers.
So...Paul admonishes Christians, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Certainly this doesn’t apply to the Palestinians! How could they possibly give thanks for these difficult lives they have been given?
The Palestinians at Christmas Lutheran Church give thanks by preparing their children for a different future, a future they cannot see, or perhaps even imagine. Giving thanks for their long history of commitment to education, they build schools—first a K-12 school, and now a new college…..behind Israel’s 24-foot-high security wall.
Giving thanks for their resilience, they repaired their church compound after Israeli soldiers stormed the building in 2002 and destroyed all their computers and their offices, scattering their files and breaking furniture. They rebuilt the parts of the building that were destroyed by the tanks that pushed through Bethlehem’s too-narrow-for-tanks streets.
Giving thanks for their patience and perseverance, they got the necessary permits and funding to build a new conference center and guesthouse….and a new building for their school.
Giving thanks for the creativity and the dreams of their young people, they are now building a new college so that these future leaders of their community will have the skills to lead when a new country is finally realized. (Photo: Music Students in a practice room at Dar Al-Kalima College)
Gracious God, you have sent your prophets and apostles to remind us of your intentions for us, your beloved creation. Today we give thanks for the abundance in our lives—for the freedom to travel and be with our loved ones, for our democratic government which gives us the opportunity to shape our own future, for the peace and security we enjoy daily, and for_________________. In the name of your son, born in Bethlehem. Amen.