A Note from Pastor Bruce
Advent 2022: SOMETHING NEW THIS CHRISTMAS
Beloved People of God,
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above they deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;” - O Little Town of Bethlehem
Last month I had the amazing opportunity to visit the “little” town of Bethlehem, the town in which Jesus was born. But I must admit the experience of being in the city of Bethlehem is a great contrast from the words and image the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” that one may have in their mind.
There is nothing still about Bethlehem. From our hotel we could walk across to the street to the Holy Church of the Nativity, where archeologists and theologians believe Jesus was born. It was noisy, horns honking, people rushing. The picture below is of the
Roman Catholic Church, Saint Catherine, which is located adjacent to the northern part of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank in the Palestinian territories. It is also a Franciscan monastery. It is the church from which the midnight mass is
beamed from Bethlehem to television viewers worldwide on Christmas Eve. The narrow stairway on the right side of the nave led down into a complex of caves and rock-cut chambers, which would be similar to the stable in which Jesus was born. We went into
St. Catherine’s because the que for the Church of the Nativity was over a three hour wait.
And there was also visible tension, frustration and fear. Bethlehem is in the West Bank in the Palestinian territories, which is surrounded by the Israeli West Bank barrier built in 2002 by Israel along the Green Line and parts of the West Bank. To leave the territory, to travel to work, or visit relatives those living in the Palestinian territory, one must have the correct documents to pass through the armed checkpoints. I have been asked if I felt safe there. Yes, I felt safe. But I did empathize with the tensions and frustrations felt by our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters who, amongst other issues that we don’t often hear in the news, are only allowed water five days out of the month before it is turned off by the Israeli government.
Perhaps that is why it is so important to sing out our favorite Christmas Hymns such as, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” For in singing together we hear anew the promise, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” It is an opportunity to look and work toward something new.
In fact, I find each time Christmas comes around, we hope for something new. It may not be a gift or an object; it may be a new, deeper understanding of what God is up to in the babe born in the manger.
I invite you in this season, let’s look for something new. Not something that can be bought or sold, but an ongoing transformation of our daily life through the One who comes to us at Christmas, and the One who will come again at the culmination of time. Let the words remind us that Jesus has come and is coming again, and he redefines our notions of power, position, prosperity, perfection, and priorities. Let us discover what new thing Jesus is doing in us and through us.
See you Sunday,