Reflections on Bethlehem
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." Luke 2:15
On that day in Bethlehem, our Shepherd, our King, the Messiah Jesus Christ, our Savior was born. This Christmas we celebrate His birth and God’s love for us in sending us His only Son. With special love we remember the little town of Bethlehem and our Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land!
The birth place of Jesus, home to the oldest Christian church and the oldest Christian community, have suffered 39 years of occupation by Israel. This occupation has profoundly impacted the lives of every Palestinian Christian.
Š The Israeli occupation has imposed economic hardships, political and social restrictions have made it almost impossible for Palestinian Christians to access their churches, fields, orchards, schools, hospitals and institutions, forcing many to leave their beloved city and ancestral home.
The wall encircling the birth place of Jesus Christ is destroying an ancient faithful Christian Palestinian community and the prospect of peace in the Holy Land.
Š For thousands of years Christian shepherds roamed the biblical valleys of Bethlehem. Today the sheep, like their shepherds, are walled in, unable to roam, and what remains of Biblical pastoral Bethlehem is but an acre or two.
Š Since the erection of the 26 foot (8 meter) apartheid wall, Palestinian Christians have been barred from worshiping and celebrating Easter at the sepulcher church in Jerusalem--a Palestinian Christian tradition that has been practiced since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Š In November 2005, leaders of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland issued a statement that expressed their dismay at the Israeli wall separating Christians of Bethlehem from Jerusalem: “We are dismayed that the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is now closed to the great majority of Palestinians. We view this closure and the barrier being built around Bethlehem as a grave injustice to its people, a serious threat to its economic life and social fabric, and an affront to all Christians.”
Despite the difficult political climate of the occupation and the Israeli apartheid wall that has been erected encircling the entire town of Bethlehem, separating churches and pastors from their congregations, students and teachers from their schools, patients and doctors from their hospitals, farmers and peasants from their olive groves, Palestinian Christians have continued to bear witness to their Christian Heritage!
This Christmas let us remember the Christians of Palestine. Pray for them and spread the word about their plight. We need them as much as they need us, because without them, our Christian holy places would become museums. Let us stand in solidarity with them as they have stood in solidarity with us, faithful to our Christian Heritage for the past 2,000 years!