Methodist churches across the country are being urged to leave their second Advent candle unlit this year in memory of those who have lost their lives in the Israel/Palestine conflict.
The call not to light the candle, which represents peace, on the second Sunday in Advent on 10 December and on subsequent Sundays, follows the news that celebrations to mark Christmas in the Holy Land will be subdued this year.
Rev David Hardman, Methodist Liaison Officer, Jerusalem, is currently fulfilling his role from the UK and remains in touch with those living in the Middle East. He told Premier:
“We’re asking Methodist churches to do something a little different this year. The reason for this is that the Bethlehem churches have said that this year in Bethlehem, they're not going to have the Christmas festivities. The festive lights are going to remain unlit in memory of all who have died in this conflict, and that they're going to carry on with this with the services and they're going to be sombre services reflecting on the true meaning of what it means for Jesus, to be in this world, for God to be incarnate.
“What we’re inviting churches to do is simply just to leave one candle unlit to stand alongside those celebrations in Bethlehem. As we do that we stand alongside our sisters and brothers who are living in in Bethlehem, but also, we stand alongside all those people that have lost loved ones, who've lost their houses, lost their livelihoods. And as we celebrate Christmas, we also remember those for whom this is a very difficult time.”
The President of the Methodist Conference, Rev Gill Newton, commented:
“The events of over 2000 years ago and of now, remind us that sadly, nothing much has changed. We are still caught up in conflict and challenge, fear and uncertainty.
“God is still present even in the most difficult places, and in the midst of violent conflict so many people are wishing for and seeking peace!”
On Christmas Day, churches are invited to take a photo of their Advent Ring with the second candle unlit and send it to [email protected]. Staff at the Methodist Liaison Office will forward pictures to local church communities in the Holy Land.