Christmas as irritating, annoying, disruptive: 12-22-17
May the joy of the season find you: 12-25-17

O wounded town of Bethlehem: 12-23/24-17


On this Christmas Eve weekend, the thoughts of Christians around the world inevitably turn to the small backwater town in the backwater Roman-ruled region where tradition says Jesus was born (though some scholars say the probability is high that Jesus was, instead, born in Nazareth).

And so we get our annual wire service update (this one from the Associated Press) on how Bethlehem is faring these days. The short answer is: Meh.

Bethlehem-NativityThe AP puts it this way: "President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital looms large in Christmas festivities this year in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

"Some food vendors, sellers of holiday trinkets and a leading hotelier in biblical Bethlehem say Palestinian protests, triggered by what many here view as a provocative show of pro-Israel bias, have hurt their Christmas business."

The city is the site of much turmoil these days, not only focusing on the long-simmering Israeli-Palestinian dispute but more directly on the status of Jerusalem and the status of the long-stalled process to move the region toward peace.

I was first in Bethlehem for Christmas Eve of 1957, just a few weeks before my 13th birthday. My family was traveling home from having lived in India for two years and we spent time in Jerusalem. But because we next were going to Egypt, we were required to stay on the Jordanian side of the border. Which meant that the relatively short drive to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve services at the Church of the Nativity there required a round-about, extra-time car route, with pointy-helmeted Jordanian soldiers stopping our car every few miles.

It was impossible to see from that vantage point 60 years ago that today there still would be no solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict, of which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a subset.

But in Bethlehem today, even as some pilgrims gather, nothing is settled about the future of the Palestinians and, therefore, the future of Israelis. The sacred heart of the Prince of Peace must be broken.

(I took the top photo of Bethlehem in April 2012. My other photo shows the star marking the spot in the grotto of the Church of the Nativity, considered the traditional birth spot of Jesus.)

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The folks at Religion News Service asked several religious leaders to describe what they thought would happen in religion in 2018. Their predictions are here. To my surprise, no one predicted that God would file an eviction notice for humans to move away from Earth and that the humans would receive back none of their damage deposit.


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