Time for Prayer and Reflection
+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;
to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in his temple.
To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory
Scripture Reading: the Book of Ruth Chapter 4
A Story ends, but seeds are sown for another story
The End of the Beginning
Reflections on Ruth Chapter 4
We have been through a journey, of sorts, reading through and reflecting on aspects the Book of Ruth. The Book of Ruth shows us the value of stories. A story which starts in unsettled times, times which required some hard decisions. The decisions required journeying out, leaving the normal behind but knowing where you wish, hope, to get to but not sure it would work out. It was a dangerous, stressful and uncertain journey and yet despite this Naomi and Ruth arrive safely, I imagine exhausted but relieved nonetheless. In our imagination we have walked with Naomi and Ruth, from Moab, modern day Jordan, back to the home country and the town of Bethlehem, and having arrived, set about building a new life, finding food and building relationships. It was something to celebrate.
The Book of Ruth ends with some negotiating by Boaz in order that he can marry Ruth and bring the security that Naomi desires for Ruth. These practical details are important and effectively make a contract that cements Naomi’s and Ruth’s role in establishing a lineage that take us from Boaz through to David - as the descendants of Boaz are his son Obed (Servant of God), and Obed’s son is Jesse, and Jesse is the father of David, King David.
Our scriptures point out the importance of the union of Boaz and Ruth. Naomi and Ruth have returned to Bethlehem, and the roots of David are in Bethlehem, and the Messiah promised to the people of Israel was prophesied as being a descendant of David, born in Bethlehem. In other words, Ruth and Boaz give the explanation as to why Jesus was born in Bethlehem, according to Luke and Matthew’s accounts of the Nativity!
The Carol ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ is probably one of the favourite Christmas Carols. Singing the carols and writing this piece brought back memories of Bethlehem. We have visited Bethlehem, as pilgrims, on a few occasions, our favourite place in Bethlehem is The Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR). It started as a Leonard Cheshire Home and was handed over to the Bethlehem Arab Society in 1975 and the current site was developed in the 1990’s.
The BASR is a non-profit non-government organization that is nationally recognized for the comprehensive medical and rehabilitation services it gives to beneficiaries from all over Palestine. The hospital is open to all, regardless of gender, age, religion or social class, and is committed to enhancing the overall quality of a patient’s life. The hospital has a holistic approach to treatment with specialist departments in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and also surgery. Integration into community life is a key objective.
Edmund Shehadeh, the director writes:
“Our goal is to change people’s attitudes towards disability so that the disabled are recognized as fellow human beings with great potential.”
(Source McCabe Pilgrimages)
We visited the centre and had lunch there, rather than a commercial restaurant. There was a peace there despite signs of the opposite. There in this peace children were being nursed, but then looking up we could see bullet holes in the glass of a new extension. Bethlehem was a dangerous place, a Palestinian town surrounded by Israeli troops and road blocks, when we visited. The words of the Carol ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ had a rough edge...
‘O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
The next lines, though, give hope:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light,
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight
The Rehabilitation Centre was a light of hope that did reach out bringing together those two unlikely bedfellows Hope and Fear.
As we continue our journey through 2021, with our hopes and fears, let us try to see the flame of the everlasting light shining through in the gracious generosity, care and compassion of friends, family and strangers. We are all on the journey, let us walk together.
In silence let us reflect on our time together as we have journeyed through the Book of Ruth.
Lord, we thank you that you were there during our journey.
You know we were not always conscious of your presence, but you equally know at times we have struggled with all the events of the last year.
There have been trials, losses and really tough days but Christmas did remind us of Your light.
Thank you that your light reminds of the new life you bring and the peace, hope and joy you offer us.
Fill us with this peace, hope, and joy.
May your Spirit direct our hearts and minds and remind us you are with us
as we celebrate and journey through this New Year,
strengthened that you are with us even when things seem broken and without hope. Amen
The Lord’s Prayer
Christmas may be over, and we may have mixed feelings about this last Christmas, but that does not stop us singing O little town of Bethlehem.
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to all on earth!
For Christ is born of Mary
And, gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wond'ring love.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav'n.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel!
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.</span>
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us. Amen
Teresa of Avila