Saturday, 22 December 2007
When you read in Matthew 2 of how Herod tries to kill Jesus, you are reminded that the Christmas story is really a shocking story of violence and massacre. It's not full of people rocking around the Christmas tree, but of mothers wailing and crying for their children. It is a story of man's opposition to God and His promises, prefiguring the violence of the cross. We see the real world of evil, love of power and oppression. That's repeated all over the world this Christmas, and, ironically, we also see it in the very birth place of Jesus this Christmas - in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is now an open prison, encircled by a huge military Berlin wall (picture above). The economy of the people has been destroyed and their freedom of movement very heavily curtailed. Draped over the entrance to the town, on the separation barrier, hangs a huge banner put up by the Israeli tourist board for foreign tourists. It says "Shalom" (Peace). The irony of this banner hanging on a fortified wall, surrounded by guns and soldiers, seems to be lost on the Israeli tourist board. The people of Bethlehem are certainly not experiencing shalom this Christmas. You cannot have shalom until you have justice so let's pray for justice in the Occupied Territories this Christmas. For more on the separation barrier see here.