Isaiah 9:2

It is a great honor for me to join via telecast our brothers and sisters in Christ, gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington. Christmas Greetings to you from all of us who have assembled here in Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.”

Isaiah, the prophet, saw a time when justice and peace would walk hand in hand, and the dignity of each human being would be revered. He saw a day when there would be liberation and equality for all God’s people.

Freedom, justice, and peace have been promoted by spiritual men and women across time and around the world. Deliverance for oppressed people has been sounded on every hilltop in every land since time immemorial.

Sadly, despite their best efforts, there is not yet liberty and equality for all. Human beings still suffer injustice, oppression in many parts of the world, including here in the Land of the Holy One.

Such ill-treatment serves only to plunge us into darkness.

Isaiah reminds us that there is one human family and we are all brothers and sisters. Each of us deserves the means to make a living, to have our dignity respected, and to have peace with justice; where every family can sit in the shade of their own olive tree and enjoy the precious gift of life.

In this Holy City of Bethlehem, “a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

The Christian understanding of this promise is that God so loved the world that God gave himself for it. Born a child to a woman named Mary, God became human, St. Athanasius said, so that human beings could be more like God: merciful, loving, compassionate, kind, caring, creative, and self-giving.

God came into the world not to condemn it but to save it. He came to deliver the human family from its divisions and brokenness, to unite and to heal us.

From this Holy Land has gone forth the greatest insight of purpose and meaning, the highest ideals of ethics and morality, the warmest teachings of divine and human love and compassion.

People around the world have been liberated and empowered by these insights and it is time that the land which gave birth to these great teachings, know firsthand their benefits.

A year ago, 138 countries granted non-member-state-status to Palestine. Since then a new round of peace talks has begun and we pray that God will bless those deliberations and bring peace with justice to the Land of the Holy One.

Christmas reminds us that we are to be a people of hope. That despite all the challenges we are witnessing here, especially now in Syria and among the refugees in particular, hope points us toward a brighter future for everyone.

Gathered here in this Holy City, it is my prayer that we will soon see the reality of a sovereign Palestinian state, with freedom, equality, opportunity, and justice for all its people.

I dream of a day when the two peoples and three faiths of this Sacred Land build one another up and affirm the dignity and integrity of each other, living side by side in equality, harmony, and cooperation.

I dream of a day when Western policies toward the Middle East are sufficiently wise as to heal and not wound, to unite and not divide, to liberate and not infuriate.

Here in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ was born. For us Christians, he is Immanuel, God with us.

God is indeed with us. We are God’s children. A new day dawned with the birth of Jesus and all the peoples of the earth are blessed by the coming into time of the Timeless One, who is All-Loving and All-Compassionate.

We are called to come out of darkness and into a marvelous light, where all are equal, free, and empowered to be co-creators with each other and with God to build a just and peaceful world.

From this Holy City of Bethlehem, let us again hear the good news spoken by the angel to the shepherds and join them in joyous praise, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace!”