The First Advent in Palestine

Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope

The First Advent in Palestine

Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope

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Available October 4, 2022

When we picture the first Advent, we see Mary and Joseph huddled by a manger. We picture Gabriel, magi, and shepherds tending their flocks. A shining star against a midnight sky. But this harmonized version has lifted the Advent story out of its context--those who experienced the first Advent had to travel through great darkness to reach the hope that shining star announced. Trusted scholar and community organizer Kelley Nikondeha takes us back, to where the landscape of Palestine is once again the geographic, socioeconomic, and political backdrop for the Advent story.

Reading the Advent narratives of Luke and Matthew anew, in their original context, changes so much about how we see the true story of resistance, abusive rulers and systems of oppression, and God coming to earth. In Luke, Rome and Caesar loom, and young Mary's strength and resolve shine brightly as we begin to truly understand what it meant for her to live in the tumultuous Galilee region. In Matthew, through Joseph's point of view, we see the brutality of Herod's rule and how the complexities of empire weighed heavily on the Holy Family. We bear witness to the economic hardship of Nazareth, Bethlehem, and the many villages in between--concerns about daily bread, crushing debt, land loss, and dispossession that ring a familiar echo to our modern ears. Throughout her explorations, Nikondeha features the stories of modern-day Palestinians, centering their voices to help us meet an Advent recognizable for today. This thought-provoking examination invites us into a season of discovery, one that is realistic and honest, and that still wonders at the goodness of God's grace.

Endorsements

"Kelley Nikondeha eloquently weaves together the first Advent story and the present-day stories of Palestinians, creating invigorating insights for present-day Christians. Palestine then and now, its people, and the politics of the land are a common thread throughout the book, bringing us to a place to genuinely grapple with the meanings of deliverance, peace, justice, and hope. Through her personal encounters, Kelley makes the Palestinian experience visible in a world that has made them invisible. If you are looking for an Advent read that dives into new and raw paths, then The First Advent in Palestine is for you."

Shadia Qubti, Palestinian Christian peacemaker and co-producer of Women Behind the Wall podcast

"If you are wearied by or bored with the sentimentality and careless religious nostalgia of American Advent and Christmas, this is the book for you. Kelley Nikondeha takes a deep, alert dive into the natal poetry of the Gospels that has become for us too trite and jaded in its familiarity. She reads this poetry differently because she has, at the same time, made a deep investment in the contemporary life of real people in the actual circumstances of Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, people who happen to be Palestinians who continue to be outsiders to imperial power. The outcome of her bold reading is to see that these Gospel texts initiated a peace movement into the world that defies and subverts the phony peace of every imperialism. This rich, suggestive book permits us to reappropriate in knowing ways the good news of Advent-Christmas, news that destabilizes and emancipates."

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"This powerful and poetic book has enriched my faith and deepened my understanding of the first Advent. Kelley Nikondeha gets under the skin of the biblical narrative and breathes new life into it—seeing its drama play out through the lens of contemporary Palestinian reality."

James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute and author of Arab Voices

"Kelley Nikondeha writes with the textual insight of Walter Brueggemann, the historical understanding of Borg and Crossan, and the prose-poetry writing style of Barbara Brown Taylor. She brings her own unique perspective as a Christian with a mixture of Catholic, Evangelical, US, African, and post-colonial experiences. The result is a reading of the Advent stories that will illuminate the Middle Eastern world of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus--and our world today as well, so full of agony, anxiety, and pregnancy."

Brian McLaren, author of Faith After Doubt (St. Martin's, January 2021), among many others

"After On the Incarnation by Athanasius, The First Advent in Palestine by Kelley Nikondeha is the best book I've read on the incarnation, peace, and hope. Buy it, read it, and embody it in your community!"

Peter Heltzel, author of Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation

"Like so many Westerners, Kelley Nikondeha experienced Advent brightly--angels, shepherds, a star, then a cozy manger scene. Then, her closer look at the Gospel's' advent narratives, framed by trips to Palestine, her life in eastern Africa, and her discovery of the central drama of what has been dismissed too easily as the "intertestamental period," led her to see brutal empire, economic exploitation and hardship, dirty politics, the suppression of women, and persecution. She does not leave us there, though. It is precisely against this darkness that the light of the Savior that she knew all along shines all the more brightly--and calls us to be a light of peace in our darkness today. Every Christian should read this book every Advent--or at any time of year."

Danial Philpott, professor of political science, University of Notre Dame

"Advent is often a time filled with attempts to be holly and jolly, making cookies and shopping. With this book, Kelley Nikondeha rescues the season from the saccharine and oversimplified to give us hope--a hope that absolutely has to do with our present day, challenging us to engage in the slow and beautiful process the incarnation set in motion: the disarming practice of restorative justice, peace, and compassion. The author deftly weaves enlightening historical material concerning the political and economic landscape Jesus was born into with moving and beautifully written accounts of her own contemporary experiences among fascinating characters in the Holy Land and beyond. It is a pleasure to read, a call to attention, and a much needed reimagining of what Advent can be."

Debbie Blue, author of Consider the Birds, Consider the Women, and Magnificat

"In a world of protests and splintering religious ideologies, a world longing for peace but preparing for violence, Kelley Nikondeha infuses the often predictable Advent narrative with a sense of place and history that demands engagement. Through scholarship and imaginative theology, and by listening to the current cries for liberation in our world, Nikondeha has written a book that is a love letter to Palestine and the people formed there. It is vital reading, and if you let it, it will change the way you read the story of Jesus's birth--and how you live in light of this transformative event."

D. L. Mayfield, author of The Myth of the American Dream and Unruly Saint: Dorothy Day's Radical Vision and Its Challenge for Our Times

"Kelley Nikondeha walks us vividly through Scripture, history, and the complexities of today. Advent--with its longing, lament, hope, challenges, and calling--comes more alive page by beautifully written page. This book has made Advent more meaningful for me, and I highly recommend it because I believe it will do the same for you."

Kent Annan, co-director, Humanitarian Disaster Institute (at Wheaton College)

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506474793
  • eBook ISBN 9781506474809
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 214
  • Publication Date October 4, 2022
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