To be in Bethlehem in Advent

Paul in Bethlehem

Paul Gehrs outside the Church of the Nativity

This reflection was prepared by the Rev. Paul Gehrs, Current Member and Past Chair of the KAIROS Board. Paul is currently in Bethlehem representing KAIROS  at the 5th Anniversary Conference celebrating the “Kairos Palestine” document.

I might say this was my shortest Advent ever. Sunday morning I was at my home congregation (First Lutheran, Winnipeg @FLCWPG) for all of 45 seconds to drop off my children for worship. Soon after, I was dropped off at the airport, and by Monday afternoon I was at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. For the record, it was -25º C when I left Winnipeg and it was +17º C when I arrived in Bethlehem. In 24 hours, I made it from my church to the manger and there was a considerable change in the weather.

Of course Advent is not a competition or a race. It is about acknowledging life’s difficulties, naming the moments when God feels absent, and admitting the inherent risks of trying to make our way in the dark. It is about naming the light we do see, and proclaiming our hope for more light to come. And it is about waiting and preparing. In general, neither waiting nor preparing is aided by competing or racing.

To be in Bethlehem in Advent is to acknowledge one kind of absence, the absence of peace in this Holy Land. People of differing nationalities and differing faiths struggle to live together in the midst of histories that include violence, aggression, suspicion, and division. The partners and people who strive for peace are lights that shine. Working for peace is a long term commitment that includes both waiting and preparing. How would God like us to prepare for peace? How then shall we live as we wait together? In general, peace is not aided by competing or racing.

We are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people.

(Isaiah 64:8-9)

Here and everywhere, to live in Advent is to embrace the need, the possibility, and the hope, of being transformed. There is darkness and there is light. We are clay and we will be re-formed. We are all God’s people; and we both wait and prepare to live into the fullness of this reality.

Filed in: Spirited Reflections


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