This Christmas, it could be said that Syria best resembles a nativity scene: an open stable without a door, cold and destitute.
The Infant Jesus does not lack companions in Syria; thousands of children who have lost their homes are living in tents as poor as the stable in Bethlehem.
Jesus is not alone in his misery. Syria’s children, who have been abandoned and marked by scenes of violence, would still rather be in the place of Jesus: with loving parents to surround and cherish them. This bitterness is clearly visible in the eyes of Syria’s children, in their tears and silence.
Some envy the Divine Child because he found a stable in which to be born and sheltered, while some of these unfortunate Syrian children are born under falling bombs or on the road to exodus.
And despite her many struggles, Mary is not alone, either; many unfortunate less fortunate mothers live in extreme poverty and assume familial responsibilities without the help of their husbands. Even the precariousness of the manger of Bethlehem brings consolation to those poor mothers crushed by intractable problems and despair.
The reassuring presence of Joseph with the Holy Family is a source of jealousy for the thousands of families without a father – a deprivation that breeds fear, anxiety, and worry. Our unemployed envy Joseph the carpenter, who is able to provide for his family’s need.
The shepherds, who with their flocks approach the manger, talk about the many Syrian farmers who have lost 70 percent of their livestock in this war.
Nomadic life, which in this biblical land dates back to Abraham and even well before him, disappears abruptly along with its ancient customs of hospitality and traditional culture.
The shepherds’ dogs sympathize with the plight of their Syrian counterparts, who, ravaged by deadly violence, roam amidst the ruins and nourish themselves by eating corpses.
The infernal noise of war stifles the angels’ “Gloria.” This Christmas symphony for peace is instead obscured by hatred, division, and cruel atrocities.
May the three wise men bring to the manger of Syria the most precious gifts of Christmas – Peace, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation – so that the Star of Bethlehem might once again shine through the darkness of the night.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus