December 18, 2016.

Dear Friends,

We will gather together for our Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute faith sharing on Sunday, December 18, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, in the small chapel located in the Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we encourage Inter-faith relations and pray together for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

We are coming to the final week that Christians call Advent, a time of waiting in expectation for a child to be born into the world that will change the course of human history forever. On this fourth Sunday of Advent the Prophet Isaiah is quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, "Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel which means 'God is with Us'." (Matthew 1:23) And Joseph is told in a dream that Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit of God and that her son is to be called Jesus because "he will save his people from their sins." This is a message of hope. We Christians, fools for Christ, are a people of hope manifest in the birth of an exceptional child of God who ushers us all into the very life of God that we call, the "Kingdom of God".

Louis Massignon called this kind of unbridled hope "hospitality". This gifted man of faith and scholarship whose own Christian spiritual journey began in the heart of Islam, travelled throughout the Muslim world and found within the hearts of its villagers and ordinary believers a faith in the divine promises of God preciously conserved for the world. He wrote that this Muslim faith in the promises of God "expresses itself by welcoming every strange visitor as the Guest, the image of God, the angel sent to Abraham at Mamre. That [this] must one day make us rediscover the eschatological significance, for the salvation of humanity, of Hospitality".

Hope, as Hospitality is our call to welcome this child Jesus into our hearts and homes this Christmas day and every day. Massignon is suggesting that every stranger and asylum seeker is to be welcomed as an image of "God with us" just as we welcome the Christ child. And one day we will recognize in this kind of Hospitality the hope in the "kingdom of God" for the salvation of humanity that we joyfully embrace to the end of time.

A very Blessed Christmas Season,

Massignon quote: (In Écrits Mémorable I, 1952. Le respect de la personne humaine en Islam, et la priorité du droit d'asile sur le devoir de guerre juste. p.789. The respect of the human person in Islam, and the priority of the right to asylum as a duty in a just war.)

(See for all past letters to the Badaliya and Peace Islands Institute)