Advent 4.1 – Innocents
Herod did his deed early this year – killing and wounding innocents in Aleppo, Berlin, and Zurich; exacting revenge in Ankara; disrupting the Christmas Market in a city still healing from the wounds of war, and the deep divide of THE WALL.
I know the place where the Berlin attack occurred. It’s a long block from the Hotel Palace, where the Council of Bishops met a year and a half ago. Our gathering opened in an ecumenical worship service at the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, dedicated on the third Sunday of Advent, 1961. It shines as a blue beacon of peace in the shadow of the old church, which was built in 1895, bombed in 1943 and 1945, and opened as a peace memorial 1987.
The Christmas Market was set up in the public plaza next to the church. A brisk hour walk past the Zoo, through the Tiergarten will take you to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie. It’s a 45 minute drive to Oranienburg, home of the Sachenshausen Concentration Camp and SS training site, where I met refugees from Camaroon and Syria, welcomed by the small United Methodist Church located there.
When Jesus was born, Herod ordered all baby boys killed to ensure that he did not rise to power. Mary and Joseph bundled him up in the dark of night to escape as refugees across the border, across the Red Sea to Egypt.
People suffer inconceivable horror time and again at the hands of other people. Terrible as it is, it is not the last word. When there’s bad news, people of faith keep listening for the good news – of survival, of remnant, of new life, of love that persists against all odds, of resurrection. It’s an old, familiar story, but we can’t tell it often enough.
Bombs did not destroy the ministry of Jesus Christ through Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The Nazis did not eliminate Judaism from the human family. Terror and treacherous crossings of seas and borders did not taken the lives of Emanuel, Ferial and Mita. . . or the baby Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is at work today, sifting through what’s left after these attacks to discover shreds of hope that can be woven anew into goodness and mercy. Hope, Joy, and Peace unfold as we join this healing work.
God bless you with a heart for love in the strong winds of hate this sorrowful season.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky