‘O Come Let Us Adore Him’: A Syrian Christmas

Encountering Christ in Aleppo: The Child Jesus reflects new hope for the city and its residents.

The celebration of the Maronites at the Cathedral of St. Elijah includes a special Nativity.
The celebration of the Maronites at the Cathedral of St. Elijah includes a special Nativity. (photo: Maronite Cathedral of St. Elijah)

Despite the harsh conditions in Syria, the Christmas Nativity of St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral in Aleppo remains a source of hope and renewal for steadfast Christians.

The Nativity scene is an important part of Catholic Christmas preparations, as it is in the homes and churches of Syria. Most Christians oversee with care the placement of the Holy Family with the shepherds and Magi under the Christmas tree to remind them of the true meaning of the coming of the Savior, Emmanuel.

This church crèche scene consists of members of the Holy Family, the Three Kings, who visited the Newborn in the grotto, along with the manger, placed at the front of the church. The Child Jesus is placed in the shrine after the biblical recitation by Maronite Archbishop Youssef Tobji of Aleppo.

The importance of this Nativity scene lies in its the location: The church suffered damage during the Syrian war and its aftermath. In 2015, it was subjected to a terrorist attack that destroyed part of its wooden roof. But in the winter of 2016, after the city of Aleppo was declared safe, the Maronite Diocese of Aleppo celebrated Christmas in this place, which carries a long history of worship and spirituality, after a long interruption and despite the difficult conditions. In this context, the determination and spirit of the people of Aleppo is embodied, as artist Nemat Badawi created a special design; in this rendition, the Child Jesus reflects new hope for the city of Aleppo and its residents. 

In the spring of 2017, operations began to remove the rubble, and parts of the roof wood were used to build altars for other churches; small wooden crosses were also made for the faithful. On Sept. 11, 2019, restoration work on the wooden roof began using wood from Italy, turning Farhat Square in Aleppo into a workshop that embodies the hope of reviving this sacred place. On July 20, 2020, St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral was inaugurated, gathering believers and worshipers under its dome once again

From the heart of darkness, Light is born.