And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. – Luke 2:4-5 (KJV)
Bethlehem has been a focal point in our world for almost 2000 years.
It is the birthplace of Jesus the Christ. He is the Son of God and the savior of the world.
Here in America we mark the birthplaces of the famous – presidents, authors, movie stars, even fictional characters in popular movies and television shows.
Jesus is the most famous person in the history of the world and His birthplace is also marked.
Ironically, the birth place of the “Prince of Peace” (as Isaiah called him) is in anything but a peaceful area of the world.
ABC.com reported a few years ago, “Hundreds of thousands of tourists used to throng Bethlehem in the weeks before Christmas, and the large square by the church would fill with people on Christmas Eve. But during the past three years of violence, most potential pilgrims like most potential tourists have stayed away. The shriveling economy and continuing Israeli travel restrictions have dampened the celebrations for Palestinians as well this year.”
Why all the violence? Theories abound. How about this posting from a Usenet group on the internet – could this really answer the question
“I hope you all enjoy whatever festive-occasion-based-on-a-fairy-tale you choose to celebrate around this time of year.”
Peace will not abound where people continue to reject the Prince of Peace.
But this is not a rant against unbelievers. It is rather, a plea to believers in Christ, the Prince of Peace, to get that message out! Tell the Good News!
Will you be rejected? Yes. I wish I could say differently, but the truth is, many in this world have been rejecting the Good News about Jesus Christ for thousands of years. It won’t stop happening here with us.
But just as some people reject Christ, others will not. There will be some who do not reject the Gospel and thus the Holy Spirit will create saving faith in their hearts through the Good News that you share with them.
Sharing the Good News about Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem and died on a cross a just a few miles north of his birthplace, will be the best thing that ever happens to anybody in this world.
On the day that you enter into heaven because of the grace of our God through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, you will run into someone that you won’t quite recognize. It will not be a family member or a friend. It will be, for all intents and purposes, a total stranger. But that person will be in heaven because you shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. Not that you are the reason they are in heaven – only God can and will take credit for that. But God will use your voice and life for His saving words.
This Christmas Eve, Bethlehem will most likely be relatively quiet due to violence and unrest in the Middle East. But if that teaches us anything, it is that we cannot be quiet with the Good News about Jesus lest violence and unrest take over our world.
I humble offer this prayer for Christmas Eve. May it the prayer of us all.
On Christmas night in Bethlehem there was born a babe in a manger that was Christ the Lord who was unlike any other creature, but yet the same. He was born from the womb of his mother through pain, but yet He was born without sin and his mother was still yet a virgin. Though He was pure and had done no sinful acts John baptized Him and at that moment the Holy Spirit came upon Him and His Father said that He was pleased. Following the will of our Father by the power of the Holy Spirit is the prime example of what God wants us to try to achieve. Now let us pray. Dear Lord, let us try to follow your example and live our lives that could be pleasing in your sight. Also that this Christmas would not be corrupted or blinded from the true story. Thank you for sending your son Jesus Christ who was born on that Holy Night just for the purpose to die on the cross to save us from all of our sins. Amen
[Prayer by Joshua Butler, a former catechumen I was honored to teach at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Mayville, Wisconsin.]