Overcoming the walls we make

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Earlier this year, the Right Rev Andrew Norton, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, led a pilgrimage tour of Israel during the Gaza crisis.  He writes:

“The travel advisory warned us not to go into the West Bank but the local guide said it was perfectly safe if we were out by 1pm.  'That’s when the celebration begins.'  "

The ‘celebration’ happens every Friday afternoon when school gets out and the local youth gather on the streets to throw stones at the Israelis, who respond with tear gas.

I walked the streets of Bethlehem and heard

"Oh little town of Bethlehem how sweet we see thee lie ..."

and remembered all the Christmas Eve services I've attended.  I was also confronted with ‘the wall’ - for one side it represents protection and for the other it is a prison.  I wept.

My problem solving mind went into action trying to fix things:  negotiation, education, justice and as a last resort force.  But conflict is never as simple as right and wrong, it's extremely complex.  When everyone has their justification there can be no justice.

I prayed.

"Yet in the dark streets shineth an everlasting light ..."

It is going to take a radically different solution to fix this mess.  I’m not sure we fully understand the radical message that comes wrapped in Christmas.  So long as you are power-full there can be no peace.  Maybe, peace-making can only come through the power-less? A baby?  A saviour?

Reading the graffiti on the wall, I think of other kinds of walls that we build.  They are protection for some but prison for others.  Our sin:  We are by nature wall-makers.  Us and them, ins and outs, right and wrong, black and white, straight and gay and on and on the list goes.  Everywhere we build walls.

"Cast out our sin and enter in...”

Christmas is no tinsel-in-the-park sentimental song; it is a message to the heart of our relationships with our friends, family, communities, our enemies and God. While the great joy is announced, it is against a backdrop of great pain that God enters in.  You cannot have joy without pain.  Christmas has a way of bringing out the best and worst in us.  It shines on all that is broken in our lives.

I am silent.

There are too many voices shouting from either side of these walls.  A cease-fire on shouting for peace can only come when the gun fire of words fall silent.

“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!”

I imagine.

"While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love."

This God of watching and wondering love is not unmoved by our wall-making.  This is not a passive God watching from a distance.  God is active, making the first move.

Busy Town Street

“So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of God’s heaven.”

It’s your move now.  A gift can only be a gift when it is received.

“Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

We pray, "O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel.”