Grace - fresh vital worship since 1993

December 2008: Christmas in Bethlehem

december 2008 grace flyer

The church is initially very dark with some candlelight. We will light candles as a symbol of light entering the world. The separation wall made from banqueting roll will be our large screen (approx 25ft tall) for the evening.

Many of the prayers through the service come from Amos' Bethlehem Pack 2008. Video clips are taken from Amos' DVD Hidden From View.

Pre-service:

Still wall images + tunes

Introduction:

Christmas in Bethlehem. Always an occupied land. You want to think about the nativity – think about a refugee camp. Not a place where people want to be.

Leaders tell 3-4 short stories of Bethlehem through the ages. The idea being to set a picture of Bethlehem under various external rulers to get away from always having the Jews as the enemy

Visuals – loads of wall graffiti and wall images on Flickr.
1. Christ's birth - Kitsch images
2. First Crusade (one of the Kings of Jerusalem was crowned in Bethlehem on Christmas Day) - relevant images
3. Late 19th/early 20th century - relevant images
4. Amos stories - Videos: Football team + IDF soldier (edit part 1)

Meditation: ‘Not so this Christmas'

Did shepherds once guard sheep
On hills near Bethlehem,
Fearing only wild animals?

Not so this Christmas -
When the danger that lurks in the hills is a camouflaged tank.

And were those shepherds made fearful
By bright lights which turned out to be angels
And a loud noise which became
A heavenly song to the glory of God?

Not so this Christmas -
When the sound of the sky is the roar of helicopter gunships,
The light, the bursting rocket.

Did shepherds once walk freely
From those hills down to the town
Where folk slept soundly - apart from that group in the stable?

Not so this Christmas -
When the route is blocked by checkpoints
And a towering concrete wall,
And citizens, walled in, fear for themselves and for their children.

Is that family still there - poor, vulnerable?
Mother, father and the child
Who will know the suffering and sorrow and death,
Yet through it all, bring hope.

People of God, go afresh to Bethlehem
In the light of reality.
Occupied them - occupied now
Innocents slaughtered then - and now.

Go and see the child who will grow
To be the man who cries for justice,
who dies to bring new life.

He invites us to follow him.

© Wendy Ross-Barker
November 2003

Song:

O come, O come Emanuel Belle and Sebastian over wall images

Stations:

Introduce the stations + graffiti (people invited to write/draw their own wall graffiti as the service proceeds)

Four stations, each culminating in an advent prayer from the Bethlehem pack

A mass of candles at each station for people to light a candle as they say each advent prayer. Video/still images rolling throughout.

1. Exploring the idea of it being always winter and never christmas.

Link to Narnia (turkish delight) but also the fact that Bethlehem has never been right itself - always waiting

A prayer for Bethlehem

In this time of Advent may we remember the people of Bethlehem, especially our Christian sisters and brothers.

From this little town the Prince of Peace came, but today they know no peace.

Imprisoned by a wall, with land taken, being economically strangled, many have fled.

Yet the church longs to continue its witness here as it has done through the centuries.
As we light our Advent candle today and we start preparing for our journey towards Christmas
May we not forget Bethlehem - and also continue to pray for all the suffering communities of the Holy Land.

Garth Hewitt

2. York/Clifford's Tower

A prayer for justice and peace in the land of the Holy One

Living Lord, ignite in us a passion for justice
And a yearning to right all wrong.

Strengthen us to work for peace
In the land we call Holy:

For peace among Jew, Christian and Muslim
For reconciliation between communities
For harmony between faiths.

Inspire us to act with the urgency of your quickening fire,
For blessed are the peacemakers
They shall be called the children of God.

Ramani Leathard, Christian Aid and Amos trustee

3. A response (Amnesty) - Photographer needed

A prayer about the wall of separation in a land once called Holy

Living God, in Jesus you broke down the wall of division.
We see other walls that divide in our world,
Like the separation wall that cuts into the heart of Palestine,
Imprisoning a whole community –
Cutting them off from one another, from their work, from hospitals,
From education and from places of worship.

God of liberation strengthen them in their struggle,
May hope be born again from the Prince of Peaceʼs birthplace in Bethlehem
And throughout this land once called holy.

May Palestinians find justice at last,
So Palestine and Israel can both live in peace -
Both live securely - both live in freedom
Without walls, without checkpoints, closures and curfews.
May we realise the great message of hope that all are chosen or none,
Weʼre all in this together -
One God, one community, one hope, one future.

Garth Hewitt from ʼMaking Holy Dreams come Trueʼ (SPCK)

4. Signs of hope. Mandela, Berlin Wall etc

A thought from a Bethlehem Christian for hope and light in the Holy Land

Despite the difficulties in our lives, we will rejoice at the birth of Christ at Christmas. Taking our inspiration from the story in the Bible of Herod's massacre and the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family.

The inspiration comes from knowing that despite being born into those dark days, amid the harsh Roman occupation, and despite the fear that must have gone with the family as they escaped to another country, Jesus did return and was able to spread his ministry of peace and love.

We are living in a similar situation over 2000 years later, behind the apartheid Wall and under the harsh occupation by the Israelis, and many Palestinians are escaping to other countries. But we are persevering and will celebrate Christmas with the message of hope and deliverance that Christ has planted in our hearts.

We pray that through the miraculous birth of Christ we will see the Wall go and change into a bridge of understanding between the two peoples living here.

Our prayer is that through mutuality, inclusivity, and reciprocity, the road to reconciliation will conquer all kinds of fears, paranoia, and injustices and the Holy Land will once again be the source of hope and light.

Zoughbi Zoughbi, Director of Wi'am Conflict Resolution Centre, Bethlehem

Bring everyone back together

Video clips:

Embarassment of the Christians
IDF soldier (second clip)

Response:

Grafitti prayers. Images from the wall together with our own graffitti

Video clip of Garth Hewitt speaking

A blessing

Blessed are the peacemakers -
the community builders,
the activists who practice non violence,
the educators who teach another way,
the reconcilers who seek to heal a wounded community,
the artists who imbue a community with dignity,
the academics who unearth buried truth,
the theologians who remind us of a God of liberation
and all those who seek to build a future by removing walls of division

they shall be called the children of God.

Peace on each one who comes in need
Peace on each one who comes in joy
Peace on each one who offers prayers
Peace on each one who longs for peace
Peace on each one who works for justice
Peace on each one whose life shows mercy
Peace on each one who walks humbly with God
Peace on each one who journeys to wholeness
Peace of the Maker, Peace of the Liberator
Peace of the Life Giver, the Holy One

May peace not conflict arise from our hearts wherever we go.
Help us to be active peacemakers - to bring peace into the world by whatever means we are able.
Help us never to stand back and watch people suffer,
but to look for solutions in the smallest and the largest situations.
May our peace be a sign of strength and not of weakness, that others may follow peace with peace.

<< November: Clean | top | January: Journeying - a New Year Labyrinth >>