O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and restless sleep,
A missile glideth by.
And over dark streets soundeth the mortar's deadly roar,
While children weep in shallow sleep
For friends who are no more.

(written by Phillips Brooks, adapted by Don Henchley)

Christmas Eve 2002 - May Peace Prevail on Earth

Salaam and Grace in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ and blessed Christmas Day greetings to you from the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Last night three busloads of the faithful traveled from St. George’s Cathedral to Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in St. George’s Chapel, in the Church of the Nativity.  The St. George’s Cathedral Choir sang carols and lessons were read.

For over a month Bethlehem has been under twenty four hour curfew, imposed by Israeli military forces.  Though we were able to enter to the city to worship the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the streets are empty of those descendents of Jesus who wish to celebrate his birth.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ from Gaza, Ramallah, Nablus, and many other small towns and villages were unable to join us in our celebration.  The tanks had pulled back to areas out of sight of the international cameras, but the streets remain deserted, and the shops closed.

We came together to pray for Peace and Justice in the Land of the Holy One.

President Yasser Arafat was denied his right to join us in our prayers again this year, and remained in Ramallah under siege. Nonetheless his greetings and prayers were shared with all, and we were one people together in spirit. On the 23rd hundreds of the Ramallah Christian community joined with representatives of the Jerusalem Heads of Churches in a candle light vigil, concluding with the lighting of the Christmas tree in the Presidents compound.

Know that this comes with my prayers and best wishes for a blessed Christmas and New Year.

In Christ,

+ The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal