[The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East] My dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In this period of Advent, we wait expectantly for the joy and peace that we celebrate with the coming of Christ. We wait in the knowledge that God as Emmanuel is already alongside us, within us, and encircling us, as we journey together on our pilgrimage through life. Sadly, we, as one human race, encounter suffering on a daily basis; suffering manifesting itself in deplorable acts of hatred within communities, between nations, and between neighbours; and suffering that we experience through loss and pain as human beings in a broken world.
It is this pain that calls us as Christians to prayer, and to fall to our knees before the infant Christ. We cry out for change in our world, for nations to act towards other nations as friends; for neighbours to reach out to neighbors as sisters and brothers; and for a whole community that cares, respects and responds to the needs of the other, particularly to the needs of the vulnerable and the marginalized. We are reminded that in Christ’s commandment that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our mind, all our strength and all our soul, and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, that the change we pray for in our communities must start with a change from within ourselves. We know that we must always seek, however hard it may be, to become people who love our neighbours more deeply, revering them as an embodiment of Jesus Christ.
As I write to you from Jerusalem, I am more aware that again we are in a time of uncertainty, conflict and fear across the Middle East. Families and individuals this Christmas will again be concerned and worried about the future; yearning for signs of light and hope. As conflict continues in Syria and Yemen; as acts of terror are perpetrated in Egypt and Iraq; as millions flee their homes, as people suffer the world over, we are called back to that simple faith revealed in the mystery of the Christmas story.
Into this broken world we believe was born Hope and Love, revealed to us not in a grand palace surrounded by the trappings of power and prestige, but revealed to us in a lowly manger, surrounded by people of simplicity – shepherds – with Mary as his mother, a woman of immeasurable courage and strength. The incarnate one – Christ – came to us, to give us faith that God is with us whatever we face, that God will comfort and heal us and lead us into new pastures.
I am always confident and inspired by what we as Christians have the capacity to do. Those who travel to our Province that they learn so much through our witness, and through our mission, how to live faithful Christian lives. We may be small in number but Christ’s love in our hearts gives us a tenacity in our ministry to transform the lives of those we come into contact with and support, whether that be in our congregations, schools, hospitals and other institutions, or in our ministry to those outcasts of society. I want to thank all of you who are involved in building God’s Kingdom on earth, reconciling communities and being the salt and light in this world. I want to encourage you in the task at hand, and pray God’s Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens you in all you do.
Let us be inspired by the shepherds, who, casting off fear, rushed to see Jesus, and returned praising and glorifying God. Let us worship God, and through him, be his hands and feet in this world. I wish you all a very blessed advent, happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.
Grace and Peace.
The Most Rev. Suheil S Dawani
Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem
President-Bishop (Primate) of the Episcopal Church in Jerualem & The Middle East