Christmas 2023: Prayers for the homeland, Gaza, and humanity

Submitted by munir on Wed, 12/27/2023 - 09:19

A few days ago, Pope Francis told us that 800 years ago, namely in the year 1223, Saint Francis set up a manger grotto, the first Christmas one, in Greccio, Italy. Saint Francis spoke about it, saying: "I wish to enact the memory of that baby who was born in Bethlehem to see as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and a donkey standing by, he rested on hay." The biographer of Saint Francis of Assisi says: “In this touching scene, evangelical simplicity shines, poverty is praised, and humility is lauded. The grotto became like a new Bethlehem.”


This is the origin of the stories relevant to the nativity grotto eight centuries later. However, at this time, we are not celebrating a nativity grotto made by Saint Francis, but rather we go back to more than 1,200 years before that, to celebrate the mystery of the birth of Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh in Bethlehem.


On the evening of Christmas 2023, the star is not clearly defined, and we cannot see it as the Magi did hundreds of years ago. The Christmas star this year is a blur, we see it behind dark clouds, and we see it as missiles hit stones and people. This evening, the Christmas star stands over the Church of the Holy Family in Gaza… Gaza, which once sheltered the Holy Family that was fleeing from Bethlehem from the oppression of Herod, from violence, from aggression, from the genocide of all the children of Bethlehem. The Holy Family flees to Egypt and passes through Gaza, which is why we find nowadays the Church of the Holy Family in Gaza.


When the occupation forces want to strike a certain spot, they send bursts of bright flares to reveal the location of the bombing. Over the past weeks, these bright flares covered the Church of the Holy Family in Gaza. There is a huge difference between the Christmas star, which suggests peace and tranquility, and the bright flares which instill fear, panic, intimidation, and turmoil.


The turmoil had in the first place descended on Herod's heart on the night he heard about the birth of the King of Kings, the child Lord Jesus. He was troubled, and all Jerusalem was troubled as well. Today, this turmoil is not confined to Jerusalem, but also to Bethlehem, which is devoid of pilgrims, and in Gaza as well which is the refuge of the Holy Family and the refuge of families in these difficult times.


Consequently, the worshipers in the Sacred Heart of  Jesus Church in Tla' Al-'Ali-- in the dear capital Amman--saw in front of the temple the Christmas star, which is a breach of the wall of separation and hatred with the bullets of the new Jews, and on the tree were keffiyehs as well as Palestinian and Jordanian flags symbolizing this fraternal, historical, national, and humanitarian solidarity for the just cause of Palestine. Therefore, an atmosphere of emotion prevails on this particular holiday over our churches these days at the invitation of the heads of churches in both Palestine and Jordan.


Any way, we thank the Lord and plead with the child Jesus to save humanity from all kinds of injustice and darkness, as well as the bombs and missiles that want to play the role of the Christmas star, which is not the case.


Our prayers on this feast are dedicated for our beloved homeland, Jordan, so that it would remains as it is at present an oasis of security, stability, and tranquility, and a resort that welcomes every brethren living in pain. Our prayers are also dedicated to His Majesty the King, whom we celebrate next year 2024, 25th  anniversary of his ascension to the throne as he had declared Christmas as an official holiday for all citizens a quarter of a century ago as well. Our prayers are also dedicated to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hussein Ibn Abdullah, the active initiator in all fields of youth, technology, development, and education.


We pray is that the Lord would engulf all our security services and the Arab Army with strength and immunity, to maintain the security of this country especially as they are undertaking nowadays two major missions, namely keeping our youth free from the drugs that are sent to us from the north, and extending a hand of humanitarian and therapeutic assistance to the wounded brethren in suffering Gaza. Our prayer is also dedicated for all of humanity, to once again enjoy brotherhood and harmony, so that every person would recognize every human as one's brother in creation and in glorifying the Creator.


Dear friends from Jordan, from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in the beloved capital, Amman, we convey Christmas greetings to our brethren in Gaza, especially those staying with the parish priest, Fr. Yousef As'ad, the nuns of the Rosary Sisters, the nuns of Mother Teresa, and the nuns of the Incarnate Word in the Church of the Holy Family in Gaza. They also installed a small cave near the temple, dominated by black colors. They did not place the figures of the Magi this year as if they were unable to reach Gaza. Let us pray and reach their hearts in these times, convey to them well wishes, and promise them that we will continue to draw the strength of faith in Christ, who was born from the power of their daily prayers.

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Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader