Home' Aurora : Aurora December 2013 Contents Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to
Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David.
Joseph went there because he was a descendant of
David. (Luke 2:4)
As we remind ourselves each year, Joseph and Mary
made their long journey, compelled by a census. It became
a journey of joy as Mary gave birth to a baby whom we call
the Prince of Peace.
As we sing Christmas carols, we are invited to think of
Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. This year I'd
invite you to think also of what Bethlehem has become today.
To journey from Nazareth in Israel to Bethlehem in the
occupied Palestinian territories today, Mary and Joseph
would have to cross some seventy Israeli barriers ---
checkpoints, fences, walls and barriers which would
involve multiple interrogations and delays -- and they would
be lucky to be allowed through at all.
These same barriers prevent shepherds watching their
flocks, either by day or by night. Most people in Bethlehem
have been cut off from their grazing lands, with significant
economic effects. To get work in nearby Jerusalem means
being able to get a special permit, which is difficult.
The Magi would probably not have been able to get
anywhere near Bethlehem, and the Holy Family certainly
couldn't have fled to Egypt when threats to their lives began.
As I write, there are reports of Israeli settlers throwing
rocks at Palestinian cars entering Bethlehem and
destroying Palestinian olive trees. A new film made by
Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers titled Bethlehem is
dubbed a 'dark thriller' for its close-up portrayal of life in
the West Bank.
So is there a bright shining star over Bethlehem today that
guides us to the Christ?
Indeed there is! Ask any who have taken the road to
Bethlehem, and they will speak of the life of Christ lived out
among the people.
In this place there is such "assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen". While the reality of life
stands so bleakly, people know without a doubt that God
continues to dwell amongst the people, and that the love
of God will prevail.
You can hear the convictions of Christ from Church leaders,
who speak with the words of the prophets calling for justice
and mercy. And of the many Christian organisations in
Bethlehem, there are so many people who follow the way of
Christ, resisting evil and loving their enemies.
I invite you to behold the Bethlehem of today and enter the
story of the journey of Christ. The parallels of the suffering
of people today with the story of Jesus' entry to this world
allow us to engage with the story in a profound way. The
journey of Christ, though it comes through suffering, is
always a journey of joy.
Bishop Pat Power is a member of the Palestine Israel
Ecumenical Network www.pien.org.au
Our Christmas traditions are probably very similar to many
Australian families' --- spending time with loved ones,
exchanging gifts and, of course, eating too much! Happy
memories are created and there is always lots of laughter.
This Christmas our family will continue to build on these
values and traditions --- on the other side of the world, in
Our son, Lachlan, has been planning this journey for over
18 months with his girlfriend Chantelle and her parents
and brothers. Chantelle and her family are originally from
Bulawayo but were forced to leave their beloved home
nine years ago. They left behind their farm, home and
many possessions, but more importantly, cherished family
and lifelong friends.
In the four years we have known them, we have become
part of each other's family. When they asked us to go on
an extended holiday through South Africa and Zimbabwe,
we were thrilled to be invited. We will have some wonderful
experiences and celebrating Christmas in their hometown
will definitely be one. It will be such a privilege for us to
witness and be involved in the beautiful reunion Chantelle's
family will have with their homeland, friends and family.
There will be lots of reminiscing, stories to tell, tears and
laughter. We will certainly experience all of the tradition and
meaning that Christmas holds for us --- family, joy, laughter
I was born at the beginning of the war, when there was no
Christmas tree. There were no decorations or lights.
We walked to the church for midnight Mass, pushing
the baby in the pram, home to bed, and wakened to a
small stocking and a special dinner -- rather like Sunday
except that we had chicken and plum pudding. Chicken
happened twice a year -- Christmas and Easter.
One year, my sister and I received a baby doll each for
Christmas from our grandmother. The clothes were made
from scraps of material. There were still many shortages at
that time and material was one of the hardest items to obtain.
Fast forward to another age, where my husband, Frank,
and I celebrate with the family of one of our six children
and whoever else can make it.
Christmas is a time of catching up with far-flung family
members and friends. Of Christ and the love of God. Of
love and joy.
Of Father Christmas and stockings and presents and
Christmas is also a time of remembering the past, of family
members no longer present. It can be a sad time, but
somehow the joy of Christ's birth seems to overtake all the
sadness and so Christmas becomes joy.
We are an elderly couple with six children and ten
grandchildren, so we share Christmas 'turn about' with
in-laws. This year it's our turn to have all the family (as far
as possible) to our place for Christmas Day. Next year
is the 'away' year and we will organise a late Christmas,
sometime in January.
With twelve adults, there is a wide range of ideas regarding
how things should be done, but the over-riding principle
is to accept each other as we are. As parents, we have
always encouraged our children --- with insistence on
good behaviour and ethical practice --- to do their own
thing. The result has been most rewarding.
So Christmas is a very happy time. The grandchildren
participate in a Kris Kringle, with each one giving a present
to one other.
Of course, there is plenty to eat and drink and everyone
gets on well together --- all the year round.
BY BISHOP PAT POWER
BY RUTH AND RUSSELL CROMBIE
BY CARMEL LAMARO
BY RUSSELL EBBS
Come ye to Bethlehem
Aurora invited readers to share their
Christmas thoughts and plans.
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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