Bethlehem: Marching in the Light
December 27, 1998
Bethlehem, West Bank: Marching in the Light
by Mark Frey
Bagpipes blew and banners waved as the thousands gathered. For the second
year we CPTers marched holding candles on Christmas Day evening in Bethlehem.
The annual march organized by the Palestinian-run Rapprochment Center, a
dialogue group between Palestinians and Israelis, has become quite an event.
Thousands of people walk together each year; most are Palestinians, but a
good contingent of Israelis and internationals also participate.
For us CPTers, as Christians, the event is an expression of our faith on
Jesus' birthday, marking the event of a new Light shining in the darkness.
But it also has political content. This year the theme was "A State: a Right,
Not a Gift."
I like the march because it integrates faith and social action. An obvious
but nevertheless meaningful symbolism is found in walking as a host of people
with candles shining in the darkness. As we marched and the wind blew and a
smattering of rain fell, it was difficult to keep the waxed-newspaper taper
I had to protect the flame and hold it different ways so it would burn evenly.
I thought, "Yes, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not put
it out, but it takes work to KEEP the light shining." And yet someone -- a
small child, a friend, a stranger, a brother or sister -- was always around
with a blazing candle, and we'd stick our extinguished candle into their flame
for renewal. Again the symbolism: We can't keep the light lit by ourselves,
we must do it together -- Christians, Muslims and Jews."
These are not new truths, but profound ones nevertheless, of which I
needed--of which we all needed -- to be reminded.