Christmas Eve services in Bethlehem have become an institution for the Christian world of the West, but what about the Christians living in the MIddle East? The vast majority do not follow the Gregorian calendar, that proclaims Christmas on December 25th, but instead follow the Julian calendar, that proclaims Christmas on January 7th. The majority of Christians living in Syria, Israel, and Egypt follow this calendar. While the Maronite Christians living in Lebanon are in communion with the Pope of Rome, so they follow the Gregorian calendar with Christmas on December 25th. Within Jerusalem itself are Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Assyrian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox. All of these denominations are represented at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of Mary Madgalene in Jerusalem. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Ethiopian Orthodox monks are found up on the roof. The Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus Christ is celebrated on January 1st, even though no Christian churches practice ritual circumcision now. Sunday for the Eastern Orthodox churches starts at sundown on Saturday night, the same way the Jewish Shabbat starts at sundown on Friday night. Despite these extremely close comparisons, the Russian Orthodox Church has been a bastion for Anti-Semitism, while the Bulgarian Orthodox Church came out very strongly against the deportation of Jews during World War II. Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for generations an Arab Muslim family had possession of the keys to lock up the church at night, so the different denominations would not bicker with each other. But there is a low lintel over the doorway of the church, which was placed there so the Muslims would not ride their horses into the church. There is been disparity between the three Abrahamic faiths that call Jerusalem holy, but there has been a great deal of interaction that was either copied, or used to benefit the other. How can we use the disparity within the three Abrahamic faiths, and among the three Abrahamic faiths to be a role model for coexistence? And for the Eastern Orthodox Christians, Merry Christmas.
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