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Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

English: "(...) Entry of Pilgrims into Be...

English: “(…) Entry of Pilgrims into Bethlehem at Christmas time. It was taken in 1890.” (text from same source) Note: At the source of this picture, several pictures portray Christmas in Bethlehem in 1898 (not 1890). This picture seems to be the only exception. It could be that the indicated date is actually a typo… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza ...

English: Autograph manuscript of first stanza of O Little Town of Bethlehem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On December 21st, our family will be gathering with others in worship for the seventh annual joint simulcast Christmas service with the people of Bethlehem at the Washington National Cathedral.

Prayers, readings, and hymns alternate between Washington, D.C., and Palestine via the Internet, bringing together people of different lands, languages, and ethnic backgrounds in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

In this age of turmoil and religious strife, it may be a surprise to some to know that Christians have religious freedom in Palestine and that Christmas and other Holy Days are celebrated vigorously!

The carol, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, was inspired by a pilgrim’s first visit to Bethlehem many years ago. This year it will acquire new meaning for me as we join in song with the “Living Stones”, as the descendents of the first followers of Jesus call themselves today. Let me encourage you to visit and attend church services in Palestine when you make your pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Inspiration awaits.

Learn more about the writer of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”, Philip Brooks and his journey, below.



My New Leaf

Nativity Church

Nativity Church Bethlehem, Palestine

Palestine has been at the top of my heart and pounding in my head for one year now!

That’s how long ago Jon and I made our “maiden” voyage to Israel/West Bank to visit our friends, and first heard the stories first hand about what was really happening there.

That was when we first witnessed the way our friends were scorned, humiliated, herded through check points as cattle are. We saw the marks of Arab homes straifed by bullets, schools bombed out, farm lands taken, water diverted up to Israeli settlements of Americans on Palestinian hillsides.

These were stories from our Muslim friends, and our new Orthodox friend confirmed them.

I read broadly in the next year and found the same facts, over and over again. I had never heard these things in Christian circles. Why?

Jesus cared for the poor, the beaten.  The Jews came as Lights for the World. Who are the Lights of the world now? Who is shining  Jesus’ light for the Palestinian people?

I had a chance to return in March of 2010 to a Christian Conference. I hoped this would be a great opportunity to confirm what I had learned from my Muslim and Orthodox friends. Or perhaps I would find a different story? Possibly, the Evangelicals would tell me a completely different story?

Surely, the Christian church in the USA would not condone Israel if it were aware of persecution happening to its brothers and sisters in Palestine?

What I found was so distressing, so heartbreaking, it caused me to become momentarily obsessed with pain surrounding the West Bank.

Arab Christians spoke with one unified voice saying, “we feel abandoned by the Western Church!”

They asked us at Christ at the Checkpoint, a conference co-sponsored by The Holy Land Trust and Bethlehem Bible College, to remind American Christians of their presence in the West Bank. That, in fact, Arab Christians have been living in Palestine for thousands of years.

Much of the Pro-Israel Theology that Arab Christians hear on Christian Television programs consists of anti-Arab rhetoric, condones military activity against the West Bank and the building of settlements. There is NO awareness of what is truly happening on the ground.

Tour groups are discouraged from visiting Arab Churches on Sundays in Bethlehem for example in lieu of visiting huge “dead” stone monuments. The Living Stones of Christ’s Church cry out from Bethlehem and all over the West Bank, “Remember Us!”

For those who have read this and would like to understand more, I’m including an article by Andrew Sullivan below: