Monday, December 24, 2007

Shepherd's Hill

Give protection and guidance to those who are engaged actively in carrying forth the things of battle. Bless them; preserve their lives; save them from harm and evil. Hear the prayers of their loved ones for their safety.

—Prayer offered by Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ, in the October 2001 General Conference

On Christmas Eve a few years ago I stood atop Shepherd’s Hill in Jerusalem overlooking the ancient city Bethlehem, where the Son of God came into this world. A heavenly host of angels announced his birth, and a new star arose to signify his coming. On this particular evening two of my co-workers from the U.S. Consulate, a small handful of church goers and I, gathered together and watched the sun dip into the horizon. We witnessed a sheepherder take his little flock to a corral at the bottom of the hill. We sang Christmas carols and enjoyed the warmth of the spirit on the cool December night.

Ironically, as our combined voices sang aloud Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s (1807-1882) I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, our ad hoc a cappella choir was drown out by automatic gunfire heard just East of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The rat-a-tat-tat of what sounded like .50 caliber machinegun and AK-47 small arms fire brought a dismal reminder of the Intifada, or Palestinian uprising. That area of the world has known war since civilization first arrived there, and it continues today unabated.

I don’t recall whether or not we sang the third verse of Longfellow’s Christmas carol, but the dim words seemed to reflect what I was feeling at that exact moment of temporary gloom.

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will towards men.’

So what does the future hold? Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is things are only going to get worse… The good news is I’m going to save a lot of money on my car insurance this year...

Ah, what a good thing is a little bit of humor. When all else fails, laugh like Ole Saint Nick: Ho-Ho-Ho. Merry Christmas.

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