In response to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, Reverend Munther Isaac of Bethlehem’s Lutheran Church has stated that, “If Christ were to be born today, he would be born under the rubble and Israeli shelling.”
Churches in Palestine, including Bethlehem’s Lutheran Church, have announced the cancellation of festive Christmas celebrations — limiting them to masses and prayers.
Reverend Munther Isaac told Al Jazeera that “This is a powerful message we send to the world celebrating the holidays.”
Isaac added that it is a poignant representation of the suffering of Gaza’s children, who find themselves buried under what is left of their own homes, victims of relentless Israeli bombardment.
For Isaac and other church leaders, cancelling Christmas is a way to convey a message reflecting the birth of Christ, the messenger of justice, peace, and dignity for humanity.
Christ was not born among the conquerors or those with military power, he said, but in an occupied country, which is what Palestine was 2,000 years ago.
“Bethlehem is sad and broken. We are all in pain about what is happening in Gaza, feeling helpless and overwhelmed by our inability to offer anything,” he said.
In Bethlehem, the Lutheran Church decided that its Christmas nativity scene would reflect the reality of children living and being born in Palestine today, placing the symbolic Baby Jesus in a manger of rubble and destruction.
Two weeks ago, Isaac delivered a letter from the churches of Bethlehem, a city of significant religious importance, to the US administration in Washington, DC.
The letter urged US President Biden, the US Congress, and heads of US churches to apply Christ’s message rejecting injustice and called for an end to the genocidal war in Gaza.
“Some people in the West forget the existence of Palestinian Christians. This war affects everything Palestinian, whether Muslim or Christian. It is our responsibility now to raise our voices as a nation to stop this war,” Isaac said.
He explained that while the nativity scene represents the reality of Palestinian lives, it also reflects hope as the infant Jesus is born in the rubble, a new light amidst pain.
“We believe in the existence of hope and the hope of the birth of Jesus in the city of peace, the holy city.
“This is what is reflected in this painting placed in the church, where we pray for just peace in our country. We pray for an immediate cessation of the genocidal war on Gaza and for the people of Gaza to enjoy a peace built on justice.”
“Christmas is in the heart,” Nassar said. “We pray and invoke Jesus to be born again in our lives, our country, our churches, and our schools so that we can live in peace and stability and achieve our independent state with its capital, Jerusalem.”