Christmas in Bethlehem this Year: Guess Who’s Missing?
BETHLEHEM, Dec. 16, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — Almost 50 years, Buffalo Springfield recorded For What it’s Worth, a song that symbolized an era of turbulence and confrontational feelings arising from events during the 1960s particularly the Vietnam War. Some of the lyrics for us in Bethlehem still resonate today:
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear.
The birthplace of Jesus is devoid of his presence this Christmas. Our Christian holiday has been publicly reduced to symbols of Santa Clause, bells and snowmen. Jesus cannot be found anywhere.
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
Of the 76,000 people who live in Bethlehem only 15% are Christians. Over last three decades, I have seen Christians flee from my hometown for a variety of reasons. Those who have remained are put into a position to never rock the boat. The dominate culture does not make it easy to be a Christian. For my beliefs and my willingness to profess the Good News, I have personally been beaten, the church has been fire bombed, and my uncle murdered.
Those who have made a conscious choice to convert to Christianity in Bethlehem have paid a dear price for their new found faith; estrangement from the family to being physically harmed. It is quite amusing to observe the U.S. news reports about the War on Christmas in America, when the real battle is where our Savior was born along with other places in the Middle East that have persecuted Christians.
The message of Christmas is more than a tree, gifts and drinking eggnog. It is about salvation as it states in the Gospel of John: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (3:16). Yet, the message is not visible and people are afraid to speak up. While the sound in Buffalo Springfield’s song is quite loud, ours is a deafening silence.
This week, I decided to be no longer silent. Using the largest billboard space on the main road to the Manger Square, I posted a 1,356 square foot billboard message of Christmas for all to see – “Jesus born to die and rose again. Invite him into your heart so you might live.” The message is in Arabic and English with a Christmas bow around it. In the last few days, traffic has been at a standstill with people coming out of their cars to take a picture of this sign.
As it states in Micah 5:2: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans[a] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times to keep the faith despite the danger. As Christians, we believe this verse to be referring to Jesus Christ. For God, our Father, to choose Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus is no coincidence, but a biblical fulfillment.
Since Jesus’ time, there has always been a Christian presence in Bethlehem. In your Christmas celebrations this year, I encourage you to pray and support the remnant that remains. Join us in this cause to once again make room for Jesus in the city of his birth. God gave us the indescribable gift of His Son. Express your gratitude by giving back a portion of His blessings in your life. Present your Tax deductible gift right now through our website www.holylandmissions.org.
Steven Khoury is pastor of Holy Land Missions, a church with seven ministries in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
You can watch our video about the Billboard via the link below:
- Mayor of Bethlehem: Christmas Message with a Female Touch (kawther.info)
- Gaza conflict putting off visitors to Bethlehem (telegraph.co.uk)