O Little Town of Bethlehem
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love to decorate, and setting up the Nativity of Jesus is the highlight. At a young age, my brother and I fought over setting up our family’s Nativity. I have carried that same feeling of joy and honor to the task each year in my own home.
As I reflect on the birth of Christ in that dark and musty stable in Bethlehem, I must admit I don’t often think about how the birth of Christ brought pain and suffering to many families in Bethlehem who lost their sons to Herod’s jealousy and wrath (Matthew 2:15-18). We sing “O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie,” but in reality the town was full of weeping and mourning.
To know that Jesus’ birth brought such pain, you might expect resentment and even hatred. Instead, Christians living in Bethlehem find pride in living in the place of our Savior’s birth:
What does it mean to be a Christian in Bethlehem?
“To be a Christian near the place where Jesus was born and the place where he was crucified and raised from the dead is an honor. It is also a call: a call for us to be an integral part of our society, a call for us to stay steadfast in our country, and a call for us to witness to the values of Christianity and the values of peace, justice, and reconciliation as well as living together in this country.” (Bishop Muneeb Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church Bishop of Palestine and Jordan, President of the Lutheran World Federation)
How do you find joy in Bethlehem?
“Many foreigners who come to the holy land ask us how can you be happy and always smiling despite the difficult political situation? My answer to them is because we have eternal happiness, happiness that comes from resurrection. So the more I’m able to live out this happiness that was given by God, the better my life is.” (Bashar Fawadleh, director of “Christ the King” bookstore in Beit Sahour, a large Christian bookstore)
Christmas can be a hard time for some; for others, it is easy to lose sight of Whom we are celebrating or why. This year, I pray we learn from our brothers and sisters in Bethlehem. May we find honor in living out our faith and joy in the midst our own trials, praising the One who sent His only Son.