Another eight days and the entire Christian world will celebrate Christmas! The entire Christian world means some 2.1 BILLION people … that is quite a chunk of the world population! The bible says, Jesus was born in Bethlehem on that day and once you listen to Christmas carols like “Oh little town of Bethlehem”, a warm sensation flows through your body, something romantic, compassionate, cozy … it dips you head on into the feelings which are supposed to come up already long before Christmas and in particular, what we WANT Christmans to be and leaves you mesmerized and with an open heart and open wallet …. and that is JUST the way you should be – according to the businessess!

Just a short note for the ones who are interested in the truth … this “Little town of Bethlehem” where Jesus was born sone 2000 years ago – is slowly dying! It is gradually succumbing to the brutal occupation the Israeli government imposed to it,
surrounded and seperated from Jerusalem by an 6-8 meter (18-24 foot) high wall like a high-security prison with every single entrance to the city controlled by Israeli military, deprived of the tourism it excusively lives from … and in deep, deep despair! I have been there several time and can assure you, it is a sad, very sad sight! Countless calls for help ended up in smoke and remained unanswered … nobody seems to care. Wouldn’t that belongt to Christmas as well?

To defend the birthplace of the one who came to the world as “Christ the saviour”? It is “inconvenient” though and demands initiative and courage … and so people prefere to be lulled into the coziness of what is officially presented like “Oh little town of Bethlehem”! I just hope everyone who COULD help and conveniently doesn’t, will be haunted throughout the year and NOT ONLY on Christmas by crushing guilt feelings and those who caused the disaster – even though they do not celebrate Christmas – will be fully held accountable!

I am asking myself .. where is the Vatican?? Shouldn’t it be the Pope to demand the Christian holy places to be open and easily accessable to the entire Christian world? Bethlehem is where it all started .. but oppressive politics of one single country seems to intimidate not only the rest of the world but sadly enough as well the head of the Catholic Church and force them into submission. It is sad and I do NOT think Jesus, were he around today, would approve of that! Shame on you Pope Benedict for not having the courage to put your foot down but silently bow and capitulate to a military power which slowly destroys what is supposed to be holy to you!

Then there are the gifts. Why gifts you may ask .. well, isn’t that what Christmas came down to? In Munich/Germany, my hometown together with countless other places all over Europe the shops started immediately after the Oktoberfest to offer Santa Clauses from chocolate and you may be able to imagine my utter surprise once I spotted them! Well .. I guess I had failed to find the switch in my head which I was suppoed to turn in order to understand, Santa Claus was already in the starting line when the last beer-tent had just closed it’s doors!

Let’s be honest .. Christmas today is all about money. The bigger the gifts are, the more expensive, luxurious, the more the donor is respected and “loved”. Under the more or less colourful decorated tree there will be the packages which are eagerly unwrapped, the bigger and more expensive the gifts, the more the one who gave them is appreciated. HELLO … does anyone still remember what Christmas REALLY is supposed to be about? It was, in earlier days, my favourite holiday, one I wouldn’t miss for anyone!

There were Christmas cookies and baked apples filled with nuts and cinnamon with the wonderful smell penetrating each tiny corner of the home and “Advent” (from Latin “advenire” =to arrive, the four weeks prior to Christmas) a wonderful, almost magic time filled with the wonderful smell of cookies being baked,the secrecy of hiding the wrapped, often self-made gifts .. a special feeling, anticipation of the big day, togetherness, belonging! That’s all gone! Christmas as family event, as well realizing there are people who have MUCH less or nothing … and simply thanking the creator for all one has got!

I remember the lecture of the outstanding young journalist Mohammad Omer from Gaza, Robin and I went to hear just a week ago, who mentioned the biggest wish of a little boy who had lost everything and who’s home was destroyed by the Israeli military (his family, by the way, was not guilty of any crime .. the house was simply in the way of this horrid seperation wall they build and therfore bulldozed – they are currently living in a tent donated by UNRWA). You want to know what the little boy wished? To be able to drink a glass of cold mango juice!! THAT is the BIGGEST wish of a little boy in Gaza.
Or the family who’s sole food affordable was tea and bread … morning and evening, day in, day out. There was nothing else, no money, no work, no hope.

You may say “what does that have to do with Christmas! It is not celebrated there anyway!” Well, I say it has to do a LOT as Christmas is about compassion and giving, NOT money, but with the HEART! It is about looking beyond boarders, pushing aside curtural and religious differences, about compassion, forgiving, love .. it is all about PEOPLE!! Remember – I am NOT talking about POLITICS … but CHRISTMAS!

I hope you will be able to stop a minute and think about all that … and ponder if there is maybe someone who has much less than you, somewhere around you, a neighbour – or a child anywhere in the world who is in desperate need to be sponsored (all it takes is monthly approximately $25) and who YOU could make a fantastic gift. There are countless possibilities and, rest assured, ALL it takes is initiative … and heart! I promise you, you’ll feel better on Christmas Eve .. simply because you rediscovered the REAL spirit of Christmas!


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