Most of the time I don’t give much thought to Bethlehem, but in my mind I travel there every Christmas. And I enjoy singing, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.” But what is it like to be a Christian and to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem today? The latest Open Doors prayer diary provides an insight into what that looks like for one Christian woman.
Nadia (not her real name, for security reasons) lives near Bethlehem. She was expelled from her Muslim community when she chose to follow Jesus. So, “Christmas is a very confrontational time for me.” It can also be a very lonely time. Her solution is to invite other secret believers to celebrate Christmas with her in safety. “Last year, there were 14 people in my apartment celebrating Christmas and they stayed overnight.”
Our colourful Christmas cards and warm houses make it easy to sentimentalise the Christmas story. We should remember that there was no warm welcome for Jesus when he was born: “no room” for his parents to stay (Luke 2:7), and only an animal feeding trough to lay the new baby. And King Herod certainly did not welcome this new arrival (see Matthew 2:16)!
But Nadia is not bitter. Far from it: “I have a vision that, before I die, I will witness at least one million Palestinian Muslims coming to the Lord.” Our situation is very different to Nadia’s, but we share the same Saviour. How does our vision compare with hers?
Yours warmly, in Christ,
Chris Hobbs (Senior Minister)
22nd December 2019