This month, many of us and our neighbors around the world have been celebrating or preparing to celebrate religious holidays and rituals that focus on light and new life. On December 8th Buddhists celebrated Bodhi Day which recalls the day Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha, experienced enlightenment; on December 12th Muslims celebrated Mawlid an-Nabi, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad; currently American Hindus are in the midsts of a five-day festival, Pancha Ganapati, honoring Lord Ganesha; tonight Jews begin Hannukah by lighting one candle every night for eight consecutive nights commemorating the rededication of the Temple; and also this night, Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one in whom God became incarnate in order to live, heal, love, and teach among humanity as a human.
Light and new life ignite in me a strong sense of hope. Hope, a concept so powerful and generative if we hold it in our hearts and keep it in our daily practices. I did not realize this truth until I recognized it to be astoundingly prevalent and genuine among Palestinians. I heard and saw hope all over the place, both what gives them hope and what they hope for. I discovered hope in conversations, painted across walls, even written on shop doors, as one man in Hebron had done.
I was truly amazed and surprised considering how challenging the daily existence is for Palestinians. How did they, of all people, have and retain such a palpable hope? And, what specifically did they hope for? So, I asked. I share the following messages of hope with you from the Holy Land today, and pray they illuminate, revive, and sustain your own life.
I traveled to Hebron, the city where Abraham and Sarah--known as the parents of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--were buried. There I met a Palestinian man who had written "HOPE" on the wall across from his shop. I asked him about it, this is what he said.
As for his hopes and dreams?
I also spent quite a bit of time in Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born and about a 45 minute drive north of Hebron. I asked a Palestinian Christian woman about her hopes and prayers.
I leave you with a message of hope from a Palestinian Lutheran pastor living in Beit Sahour, the village of the shepherds' fields, the location where, Christian tradition explains, the Israelite shepherds kept watch over their flocks by night and were met by an angel of God who told them Jesus, the Messiah, would be born in neighboring Bethlehem.
I invite you to consider, what gives you hope? Once you land on something I encourage you to carry it within you. As you recall this hope you will discover how it can truly transform both heart and mind, reviving them with energy to persevere, clarity or revisioning of what is seen, and the will to move forward. Remember, there is always more than what we can see now--and as long as we are alive there is always the possibility to choose anew, to be all the more compassionate, gracious, forgiving, peaceful, and loving, toward ourselves and each other. And that, if nothing else, is something we can find hope in.
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