During the Christmas season, along with the midwinter chill, there is always a focus on reaching out to the homeless in London and other cities. Many people find meaning in a highly commercialised festival by volunteering at the extra shelters for the homeless set up for the season by charities such as Crisis at Christmas.
Herein lies an opportunity for bringing those made unjustly homeless in the Holy Land to peoples’ attention, in general conversation, or by including the homeless outside the UK in intercessory prayers at church services. This site’s web editor recalls a time of snowfall in Jerusalem near Christmas time, where an American staff member at Sabeel, a Palestinian Christian organisation, enthused about the beauty of the whitened landscape, but was reminded by a Palestinian staff member of the hardship which the weather was causing for those victims of home demolitions forced to live in tents.
For those who find it discouraging that church congregations can be reluctant to bring up issues that can be deemed as “too political” in their services, there will be encouragement in a Christmas Day broadcast on Radio 4. The Anglican priest and commentator Giles Fraser, who recently resigned from his post at St Paul’s Cathedral over its handling of the Occupy movement’s action there, will be talking about the Church’s historical divorce from politics. His broadcast will outline how the Church became depoliticised and sanitised from its roots in Jesus’ teachings on setting free the poor, the oppressed and the dispossessed, when the Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. On Start the Week today (Radio 4, Mon 19th Dec), Revd Fraser comments that, on a recent visit to the Holy Land, he witnessed how so many Christian pilgrims today come from plush hotels in Israel in air-conditioned coaches, through the checkpoint at the Wall into Bethlehem where Palestinians queue, pile into the Church of the Nativity, make their devotions, and pile back into their coaches and away, without the least contact with and awareness of the deprivation amongst Bethlehem’s Christian and Muslim population.