Luke 4. 16-21
When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
We are faced daily with issues of injustice, it is a reality in which we live. How often do we fail to notice those who suffer? How often do we fail to speak up? My recent trip to Israel-Palestine with Sabeel-Kairos and Sabeel Jerusalem was incredible, it evoked feelings of joy and warmth, whilst also instilling in me a deep sadness, even anger.
How far removed from present Bethlehem do the lyrics of the famous carol ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ now seem as a wall imprisons the Palestinian people, watch-towers with armed Israeli soldiers intimidate and belittle passersby, gunship helicopters loom over head the movement of their blades echoing through the valley, and frequent clashes bring bloodshed, tears and cries of pain to the streets. The picture we paint in our minds of Bethlehem at Christmas is far removed from the Bethlehem of the twenty-first century. The holy sights of Bethlehem and the surrounding areas encourage deep spiritual encounter, but this is pointless without engagement in the current crisis in the region.
‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’; in this present moment we are called to recognise and share the liberating and life-giving love of God, and this is exactly what many Palestinians are declaring in the Middle-East whether they be Christians, Muslims, Jews, or other. As we approach Advent, I encourage you to study further the situation, to advocate for reconciliation, justice, and peace, and to maybe even consider a witness visit for yourself with organisations such as Sabeel.
Visiting Israel-Palestine is like living out the formation of the fifth Gospel of Christ, whilst there is darkness now, the light will come. But we, like Christ in the synagogue, are called to proclaim good news, justice, and liberation.
God of Love, help us through word and deed
to dispel the darkness of this world.
Enable us by your Spirit,
to live as advocates for justice and reconciliation and empower us to be bold in seeking liberty
and release to all those who are oppressed.
Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.