The Town of Bethlehem:
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ruth 2–4; Micah 5:2/Matthew 2:6
Shepherd’s Field and Cave:
As you worship in the Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem today, you will experience a Lutheran liturgy in Arabic (with a few English elements) that will be surprisingly easy to follow. Many of the parts of the worship service are very familiar to us, and participating alongside of the Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem reminds us of all that we have in common as the Church.
This town of Bethlehem draws pilgrims from around the world. In the famed Church of the Nativity that we will visit tomorrow, we will hear the languages of many nations among the tourists as we wait expectantly to descend to the cave. But this town is also home to thousands. In the stories of the Christians with whom we will dine this evening, we will hear about daily struggle, the challenge to forgive, and the pursuit of peace. And in Christ, we are all one—sisters and brothers (Galatians 3:28-29).
Centuries before Jesus’ birth, Micah the prophet spoke of the Messiah who would come out of Bethlehem. This Messiah would be the great shepherd of God’s people and would himself be peace—our peace (5:2-5). Our shalom. Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah, reminds us that one of the Son’s titles is Prince of Peace (9:6). Wherever we come from, wherever our home is, wherever we venture in our lives, we are a people of peace. We are to live and to offer the peace that is found in the love and grace of Jesus. And we are to remember that as diverse as we are in this world, there is One Peace who is truly able “to reach to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4).