December 19, 2010.

Dear Friends,

Please note the time change for this gathering due to the Boys Choir Christmas Concert.We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, December 19, 2010 from 1pm to 2:30 pm at St. Pauls Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

During the Advent Season we are called to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and wait with hope for the Second Coming of Jesus while recognizing him already alive and active in our midst. The readings during this season from the Prophet Isaiah were written to inspire hope in an exiled people for their return from Babylon to Jerusalem. The readings describe the God of Israel forgiving and healing, feeding and guiding a people whose exile was seen as a punishment for not being faithful to their God. The images are of a glorious time of peace and harmony centered on a return to Jerusalem. For Christians, Muslims and Jews living in the Holy Land today the hope for such a powerful expression of peace seems far off indeed. And yet we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world this year and every year along with those Christians living in Israel/ Palestine, and throughout the world. The Prophet's voice of hope and love is still calling us to be faithful to God's promise for Jerusalem.

"This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain.... All nations shall stream toward it... for from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord." (Isaiah 2:1-5)

"Thus says the Lord God: But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest....On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book: and out of the gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see (Isaiah:29)

"O people of Zion , who dwell in Jerusalem, no more will you weep; He will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you....On the day the Lord binds up the wounds of his people, he will heal the bruises left by his blows." (Isaiah:30)

When Louis Massignon wrote his "Jerusalem City of Peace" which appeared in a publication called Christian Witness (Témoinage chrètien) on April 30, 1948 he not only could not envision a separation of Palestine as politically wise but saw it as "impious," not true to the Prophetic tradition to which the Jews were called. Massignon died in 1962, before Israel recalimed all of Jerusalem from Jordan in what is known by Israel as the Six Day War and by the Palestinians as the "catastrophe." He was sure that the three Abrahamic faiths were meant by God to live as brothers and sisters sharing the Holy City in peace and harmony.

In Islam, Jerusalem was the original qibla, the direction toward which all Muslims face when they pray, before Mecca was later designated by the Prophet (PBUH). According to Islamic tradition Jerusalem was the destination of the Night Journey from Mecca of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) when he was taken by the angel Gabriel to see everything in heaven and earth. He met Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the other prophets and his destination was the Muslim Dome of the Rock built on the site of the destroyed Temple of Solomon. In Islam it was also the site of the sacrifice of Abraham's son, Ishmael. Jerusalem is the third holiest city in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

The history of Jerusalem for all three Abrahamic faith traditions is complex and painful. Massignon wrote that the salvation of the world depended on the character of the the returning Jewish population and their attitude toward Christians and Muslims. Israel's own prophetic tradition, harkening back to Isaiah and the time of their exile in Babylon, remains the path towards God that we are all called to follow as a "light to the nations."

May we be reminded of how we are called to be faithful witnesses of God's prophetic promise during this season of Advent and may we all give birth to Christ in our hearts and in our lives this Christmas.

Have a blessed Christmas Season.
Peace to you.