Advent Day 20: A message from the Olive Grove Chapel

For the 20th Day of Advent Rev Dr John McCulloch, minister for St Andrew's, Jerusalem, has sent us a special message from The Olive Grove Chapel at the Tent of Nations in the hills outside Bethlehem.

Rev Dr John McCulloch holding a service in the Olive Grove chapel

We refuse to be enemies

As we journey through Advent, we are reminded that the answer God gives to our suffering world is himself. As Christmas approaches, we await with hope and expectation, as we remember and celebrate how our God was born into our world as a vulnerable child. God takes on our humanity, to heal us and our hurting world from within.

Here in the hilltops outside Bethlehem, not far from where our saviour was born, the Nassar family know what it means to feel vulnerable. They know what it means to wait and hope for change. Surrounded on all sides by illegal Israeli settlements, the Nassar's land, olive and fruit trees are under constant threat; and yet they continue to plant seeds and to harvest the olives, whilst refusing to be enemies with those who want to drive them away. They worship at The Olive Grove chapel, which is growing amidst threatened olive trees, vines and fruit trees, all of which are under a demolition order.

The Olive Grove Chapel is a symbol of hope and new birth, in a landscape threatened by the injustices of Occupation. It is a reminder of the fragility of beauty, growing amidst the structural injustice of walls, watch-towers, and barbed wire.... It is a reminder of how God works in our world. Incarnationally. Through non-coercive love.

The Nassar family has little power compared to what they are up against, and at times it is difficult to hold on to hope. And then I am reminded of the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when he writes "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." God comes in weakness to shame the strong, and disarms the powerful through outpoured love. In their witness to non-violence, and their refusal to dehumanize the other, the Nassar family lives-out the teachings of Christ in a very real way.

God comes to us at Christmas as a vulnerable child. May we see the signs of rebirth that come into our world, and open our hearts to receive the gift of our saviour and Lord, as we journey towards Christmas.

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