About a week ago in Manger Square in Bethlehem, Israel, the Christmas tree was lit. Located right outside the Church of Nativity (a church that dates back to the 4th century AD), the gathering among local Palestinian Christians and tourists representing numerous countries around the world was festive as always. There were no safety issues nor any political “tension” (what you see in the media is always hyped and sensationalized, by the way). The area was packed with people. Personally, I had the privilege of being there on Christmas Eve back in 1981. I’m am sure that this gathering this year displayed the same heightened level of joy and anticipation.
Bethlehem was the place of Christ’s birth. As predicted by the prophet Micah (Micah 5:2f), this “little town of Bethlehem” was the location for the birth of the Savior of the world. The town was only a small Jewish village when Joseph and Mary arrived. Today the city of Bethlehem has a population around 25,000 (depending whether you count the communities of Beit Sahour to the east and Beit Jala to the west). Only about 20% of these (give or take) are Christians (primarily Catholic or Greek Orthodox, with only a handle of evangelicals). The percentage of Christians 20 years ago was about 75%. Christians have been driven out by the hands of the intolerant Muslim community.
Although Bethlehem has seen it’s share of tension in the past, this month is a festive time of joyful celebration.
Below are two videos. This first one is a video of the lighting of the tree, while the second is a unique rendition of a Christmas carol.
The Christmas carol – O Little Town of Bethlehem.