Dear brothers and sisters,
I wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas as we come once again to the profound and joyous day when Christ our Savior was born in Bethlehem.
 
We know the story well. We know how shepherds came to see the infant Jesus for the first Christmas. They were among the first to know the great gift God had given the world. They shared that story with their families, down the generations to the Christians who live in the Holy Land today, in Bethlehem so near to that humble manger.
 
We remember the Christmas story every year, dutifully reciting it, sharing gifts and food with one another, singing carols and putting up lights. Unfortunately, we often forget the Palestinian Christians who have preserved the good news for us, who have continued our traditions, and maintained our holiest sites including the Church of the Nativity. We forget that they are disappearing from the Holy Land, that while our lights are bright, Bethlehem is dark where Christians have already fled.
 
Every day Palestinians who have remained face the consequences of occupation. They are surrounded by a separation wall fitted with guard towers. They cannot travel without passing through military checkpoints, where they’re often denied entry. Their lands are seized, their water is dried up, and their fathers and sons are imprisoned without due process. Unrest has been escalating, blood is spilled every day, and Christian sites have been targeted for attack, such as the recently burned Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish in Galilee. If Mary and Joseph had to make their journey today, they would likely not reach Bethlehem.
 
Please remember Palestinians this Christmas season, remember the words of St. Paul:
 
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” 
1 Corinthians 12:26a
 
The Christmas story is not only about Christ’s birth, but also highlights the struggles of the time. Jesus was a Jewish Palestinian refugee who had to flee with his family from the dangers of that period.  Indeed, he would have looked very similar to the thousands of refugees we see in the media today. As we remember Jesus, let us remember all the refugees who must leave their homes to avoid violence and death. Let us remember Jesus as the first Palestinian refugee, representing over a million Palestinian Christians who are forced to live outside of the Holy Land. At the same time let us remember the 200,000 Christians who remain in the Holy Land, who keep the faith and remain steadfast amid the rising conflict.
 
St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians continues:
 
“If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 
1 Corinthians 12:26b
 
History has repeated itself in the current suffering of refugees and Palestinians in the Holy Land. Their persecutions reflect the persecutions Christ underwent on our behalf. Fortunately, though, this is not the end of the story. Christ experienced pain and strife up to the point of death. Yet, he rose again and embodied the hope and love afforded to us all by grace. During Christmas we honor the birth of Christ because of the extraordinary events that follow. We honor his life, his sacrifice, and the salvation we have gained through him. Let us all rejoice together – from Bethlehem to every corner of the earth!
 
The message of Christ is for people of all nations and faiths. It is a message of peace and hope. The dark days of suffering will come to an end and we will have a lasting and blissful harmony around the world.
 
Thank you for remembering Palestinians, and have a truly Blessed and Merry Christmas!
 
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Rateb Rabie, KCHS
HCEF President/CEO
 
لقراءة رسالة عيد الميلاد باللغة العربية يرجى الضغط هنا.