Almost everyone in the whole world has started buying Christmas gifts, almost everyone has set up Christmas trees in their houses and almost everybody has bought new clothes to celebrate Christmas Eve! The world awaits Christmas and the opportunity to spend quality time with family, and to have a week off from work. But here in Palestine, it’s a slightly different story.
I come from Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born and I live in the nearby town of Beit Sahour, where the star guided the Shepherds who first saw baby Jesus. Naturally, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday in a unique way. Setting up trees and buying gifts are not the only things we prepare. As people embrace the visible, they also embrace the invisible. We dive deeper into our hearts; we cleanse all our sins by starting to pray daily for one week before Christmas Eve, singing special hymns in church, making a proper place for Christ’s birth! Jesus lies in our hearts, so we make sure that it’s a cozy, restful place for him!
From here, the Holy Land, I ask for much dearer gifts to our hearts than material gifts. I ask God to grant our families and friends good health, to bring peace to our hearts and to give us compassion to accept each other. And finally I ask God to grant our political and religious heads wisdom, to solve the conflicts so we can worship God freely.
Despite our sufferings and troubles, we can still celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth with joy and inner peace! We ask God to spread love, peace and mercy in people’s hearts. May the blessings of the season fill your heart and may joy be in your company all the yearlong!