O Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
Today, I continue my reflections of Christmas carols and a recent tour of the Holy Land of Israel. God chose the little town of Bethlehem out of many other prominent cities in Israel. The Book of Ruth occurs in Bethlehem. Ruth and Boaz make their home in this city. Their great-grandson, David was born there, played his harp there and watched over his sheep on the hills of Bethlehem. It was prophesied that the Messiah would come from the lineage of David and so Jesus too would be born in Bethlehem.
On my recent tour, I could not escape the beauty and majesty of the landscape; the mystery and history of the biblical stories and the wonder of Bethlehem’s ancient sites. But what was also inescapable from notice was the deep ethnic tension and discriminatory divide between Jew and Palestinian. I captured images of bulletproof glass and security gates, watch towers and guarded walls, check points and armed military personnel. The day I arrived in the nation, was the end of a series some 500 rockets that were fired into Israel from Palestine as violence escalates.
During my trip, I spoke to both Jew and Palestinian and each feels justified in their position. The Jew feels entitled to all of the land of Israel according to Biblical passages and promises. The Palestinians feel they are under occupation.This feeling was apparent to me, as they were certainly denied human rights of access, travel, water, electricity restrictions, limited economic freedom (home ownership in certain areas). In addition, both Christian and Muslim Palestinian each feel they are viewed and treated as terrorists.
As an African American, I can relate to the reality of discrimination, as my ancestors were subjected to American slavery and Jim Crow laws. This type of unjust behavior is still present today and has been seen in the history of many nations where the evil of ethnic, gender and religious discrimination is alive.
Today and during the Christmas season, let’s turn our hearts toward Israel and Palestine and fulfill Psalm 122:6 which says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.”