Monday, December 14, 2015 

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. Luke 2: 8-10 

This reflection takes me back to more than a year ago when several of us from AUMC toured the Holy Land. Our first night’s lodging was at a small hotel, the Angel Hotel, in the Beit Jala section of Bethlehem. We were warmly received by our hosts who were part of the Palestinian Christian community there. Entering the hotel, we walked under a beautiful fresco of an angel playing a musical instrument. That evening, our group gathered on the hotel rooftop and received God’s grace through the gifts of bread and wine. Around us we could see eerie yellowish/white lights high on poles, probably security lighting. The next day we entered a cave where tradition says shepherds tended their flocks. We were led in a devotion centered on the shepherd story in Luke 2.

We were fortunate. We spent time in Bethlehem when things were peaceful, surrounded by others who had come to experience the place where angels and shepherds celebrated Jesus’s birth. Today that is not the case: I get messages from our Consulate in Tel Aviv that restrict American citizens from traveling into Bethlehem and the West Bank.

Things have changed, and my brothers and sisters in Christ …the Palestinian Christians of Beit Jala and Bethlehem…must have broken hearts at the way peace and joy to the world has once more eluded their homeland. I wonder how our friend Fouad, our Palestinian Christian guide, is doing in the midst of the struggles in the Holy Land.

How quickly it can happen! One day we are surrounded by angels and shepherds only to awaken to circumstances that can bring sorrow and fear. But for my friend Fouad, for families in Beit Jala and Paris and Russia, and for all of us in Charlottesville, thanks be to God that we can have a faith bolstered by remembering one angel who said to all of us: “Do not be afraid…”

-Don MacNicoll 

Prayer: Lord God, We pray to you because we can live without numbing fear. Direct us to offer the Good News of peace to each other, peace to strangers, and peace to those who disagree with us. Amen.