Our Christmas Letter 2023

Dear family and friends,

We have three Nativity scenes in our living room set up for Christmas. One is from Mexico is on our mantel and one from Guatemala on the buffet. A third one with the Nativity figures painted on wood blocks is beneath our Christmas tree. They picture the scene of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. But this Christmas church leaders in Bethlehem canceled major church services and festivities in recognition of and mourning for the loss of thousands of lives in the Israel-Hamas-Gaza War. 

There is much to lament. Hamas continues to hold around 100 Israeli hostages, after killing around 1200 Israelis during their October 7th attack, mostly civilians, including dozens of children. Israel’s subsequent massive bombing and ground war in Gaza is estimated to have taken 21,000 lives, mostly civilians, including thousands of children. 

The heads of several U.S-based humanitarian aid organizations, similar to the one I worked for, write, “We are no strangers to human suffering — to conflict, to natural disasters, to some of the world’s largest and gravest catastrophes. . . But we have seen nothing like the siege of Gaza.” While condemning Hamas’ atrocities as “unconscionable and depraved,” they call for a cease fire by Israel, saying that that “the right to self-defense does not and cannot require unleashing this humanitarian nightmare on millions of civilians.” 

Pope Francis has called for “the liberation of those still being held hostage and an end to the military operations with their appalling harvest of innocent civilian victims.”

Some people have taken sides in this war. But as followers of Jesus we are on the side of the children, for “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” 

Meanwhile in Ukraine, 10,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed, including several hundred children. So please, let’s keep the people of Gaza, Israel and Ukraine in our prayers. 

This has been a difficult year for us. Yet God has been present and active in our lives in surprising – even miraculous – ways. We are blessed and thankful. And we find that praying for our own struggling family members and friends is a bridge to caring about and praying for the equally precious victims of war and human folly.  

I came across an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that may seem frivolous in the face of the world’s pain. But being joyful isn’t just for times of happiness. It’s even more important in times of hardship and sorrow. 

A cartoon of a person throwing a ball

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So we wish you a joyful Christmas and New Year’s, and in the year ahead many wonderful blessings from the God who loves us so much that he came to be with us as one of us. 


Diana, Marty and family