I have a friend who lives and works in Bethlehem. They sent me their annual Christmas letter recently, and I thought that I would share a portiion of it with you, as it helped me to reflect upon my own experience of Christmas in West Bridgford in the light of their very different experience in Bethlehem.
Here in Bethlehem, the reality of Christmas is far from the image we seem to have in the West – the “little town”, “baby in a manager”, “carol singing” “mince pies” and so on, all these things that we associate with Christmas and often enjoy.
Bethlehem is a small town very much affected by the occupation, struggling economically through restricted access, lack of supplies, cut off by a wall from the rest of the country and a gradually diminishing population. This year there will be memories of the Gaza war that took place at the end of December. There are many who struggle just to maintain day-to-day life but this is the place where our Saviour chose to be born.
The reality of Bethlehem is so different from the image we often have in our minds but the message of Christmas always remains the same. Christ came as a babe to this Holy Land as part of God’s amazing plan for our world. Not all the carols, the Christmas messages, the presents and kind acts, even the gospel narratives can truly express the wonderful purpose of God in sending His Son to save us.
Best wishes this Christmas, and may you know the Peace the Prince of Peace alone can give.