An Advent Reflection from the Middle East: Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?

One of my favorite holiday memories as a little girl involves driving through local neighborhoods at night, looking at Christmas lights, and belting out carols with my Dad—mostly off-key! Do you hear what I hear? was one of his favorites and remains one of mine.

Since October 1962, the song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” has sold millions of copies and has been recorded by dozens of artists.

With the realities affecting the Middle East—from the coronavirus to the May 2021 hostilities between Israel and Gaza, from the humanitarian needs in Yemen and the economic crisis in Lebanon to the one-year anniversary of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan—all of us are in great need of seeing and understanding what is happening in the Middle East more clearly.

Our prayer this December comes from Revelation 2:29: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” May we have the courage and wisdom to pay close attention to the voices of men, women, and children throughout the Middle East who daily experience violence, conflict, the devastating effects of military control, and war.

Noel Regney (lyrics) and Gloria Shayne (music) wrote “Do You Hear What I Hear?” originally as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As we turn our hearts toward Bethlehem, the place of the birth of Christ, may we be inspired by the words of the song to have eyes to see and ears to hear multiple perspectives and experiences that might be different from our presuppositions. May we listen to diverse voices and seek more profound knowledge about the history, circumstances, and political challenges contributing to a lack of peace.

Here is a prayer as we begin the Advent season:

Living God–we remember the words of the song as an encouragement to us: “Said the night wind to the little lamb… A star, a star… dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite.” We can imagine the hopeful response of the shepherds when they witnessed the star rising on the horizon over Bethlehem. May the spirit of hope be the posture we maintain as we enter the next several weeks of Advent.

We pray that all of us may have eyes opened to see and to learn… To learn about the devastating effects of the military occupation on the Palestinian people of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. To see the profound impacts on both Palestinians and Israelis who work and are committed to a different future where justice, equality, and human rights might exist for all people living in the land.

May our ears be opened to hear the stories of our siblings in Christ and the stories of all who are suffering and in pain throughout the Middle East. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us as churches committed to Middle East peace.


Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon is the executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace and an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). This article was originally published by Churches for Middle East Peace.

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