|CHRISTMAS HOMILY 1999
1. In this Holy Night, with the beginning of the Great Jubilee of the
year 2000, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our Lord and God
Jesus Christ. We celebrate the memory of the mystery of the Incarnation
of the Word of God of which St John said: “In the beginning was the Word,
the Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word became flesh: he lived
among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as
only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1,1.14).
"With the Virgin Mary, first witness to all the events, and who
kept everything in her heart, we are invited this night to enter in the
silence of our consciences, in order to meditate on the great things done
by the Lord to us, in order to show us his love. St John says: “This is
how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes
in him may have eternal life”(Jn 3:16)
The angel had said to Mary in the Annunciation in Nazareth: “The Holy
Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you
with its shadow, And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of
God”(Lk 1:35).And the epistle to the Hebrews affirms that this child is
“the reflection of God’s glory, and bears the impress of God’s own being,
sustaining all things by his powerful command” (cf He 1:3).
2. President Arafat,
with all my brothers, members of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in
the Holy Land, Latins, Melkites, Maronites, Syrians, Armenians and Chaldeans
and Father Custos of the Holy Land, we welcome you in our prayer, in this
Holy night, here in Bethlehem, with all your guests, heads of states and
governors of peoples, who came to celebrate with us the beginning of the
new millenium and the birth of the Lord of glory, the Master of time
and history, the prince of peace, the Lord Jesus Christ. We welcome as
well all the civil and consular authorities also present with us to share
our prayer and our adoration before the mystery of God, and the proclamation
of the beginning of the Great Jubilee.
To you, venerable guests, heads of states and governors of peoples,
we wish you and your countries and societies peace, the joy of seeing God,
the abundance of the Spirit, warrant of all renewal and prosperity. May
the new world order know more justice and more respect to the peoples and
persons, because religious extremisms which threaten human societies today
take birth and grow within the injustices and frustrations of peoples.
Help your peoples to believe in God so they will not believe in their own
3. To our Holy Land, and to the whole region, we wish and pray so that
the peace which started finds a just conclusion for all, Palestinians and
Israelis. May the city of Bethlehem, towards which all eyes are turned
this night, may all the refugee camps all around it, all political prisoners,
all of Palestine, know, with all the countries of the region, a new era
of justice, freedom and dignity.
In our land, God wanted the three monotheistic religions to coexist:
it is a lesson for of us believers. We accept the will of God on our land,
and from God we learn, with the new era, that to believe in God means essentially
to love God and all God’s children, whatever be their religions or their
4. Dear faithful, in Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Cyprus, the
great Jubilee is for us the occasion to renew our faith. Since 2000 years
we have believed in Jesus-Christ. In our Synod of the Catholic Churches
in the Holy Land, we wanted to stop and to ask ourselves how was our belief
during these centuries, how we believe to-day, and will we be able to transmit
our faith in Jesus-Christ to the future generations. How can we understand
and welcome the will of God who calls us to be the small flock, a small
number, in this land as in all the countries of the Middle-East, the cradle
of Christianity. We are called to be a small number but also an integral
part of our Arab Christian and Moslem societies; and here in this land
we are together Moslems and Christians, Jews and Druzes. We are today a
small flock, a sign of contradiction as was Jesus 2000 years ago, and as
he still is through us. We are a small number but full of the joy of believing
in Jesus Christ, of being his witnesses in his land, full of hope through
all difficulties, waiting for the abundant life promised by God to us.
Next Febrauary we will conclude our Synod, hoping we will come out
with a new pastoral plan which will help us renew our faithfulness to our
Lord Jesus-Christ and to the fist Christian community of Jerusalem, of
which we are the heirs, all of us Christians present in this land, Catholics,
Orthodox and Protestants. For a good conclusion of the Synod, we ask your
participation and prayer.
5. We greet, in our prayer in this holy night, all our Christian brothers
in this land, Orthodox and Protestants, with whom we stood together before
God and men in sign of our fraternity and our faithfulness to the one Lord
Jesus-Christ. as we had the common celebration on the 4th of this month.
Together we ask the Lord Jesus to put us and to accompany us on our way
towards unity for which he prayed.
We greet our Moslem brothers, and especially the Moslems and Christians
of Nazareth to whom we sincerely wish to find again their traditional fraternity.
To the Jewish people, we wish with the opening of the New Millenium, a
new era of peace and justice.
6. Brothers and sisters, in the year 2000, we will welcome the Holy
Father John Paul II as pilgrim of the Great Jubilee. With him we will pray
and renew and strengthen our faith and our relations with all our brothers
and sisters, Christians, Moslems and Jews.
At the conclusion of this mass, we are going to proclaim with the Holy
Father in Rome the opening of the Great Jubilee, which signifies our entry
in the new millenium, in a year of prayer, penitence and return to God.
In this spirit, enter the Jubilee year, to purify yourselves, to get reconciled
with your brothers and sisters and to see God in your life. We ask God
to grant us, with the new year, justice, peace and reconciliation between
peoples and between religions, here, in this land and in the whole world.
+Michel Sabbah, Patriarch