Palestine (MNN) – Today many of us are celebrating Christmas and probably thinking of what Bethlehem might have looked like at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth. However, the Bethlehem found today is most likely different from the one painted in many of our minds.
Modern Day Bethlehem
“We are very proud that Christ was born into our country. We…cherish that…and as committed Christians, we don’t take it for granted that He was born here. We also want to make that reality come into every setting for people around us regardless of their religious background,” Jack Sara, the president of Bethlehem Bible College says.
Per Sara, there is a heightened sense of spirituality among the Church in Bethlehem during Christmas. In a way, the land becomes a fifth Gospel. It speaks to the reality of Christ’s birth, and many Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem celebrate this.
“But sadly, because of the political instability and the occupation and sometimes the deteriorating economy…it does affect how Christians are interacting with this reality,” Sara explains.
Christians were once almost a majority in Bethlehem, but not anymore. Due to political instability, a lot of people, Christians included, are trying to find ways to build a life, feed their children, and get an education. Sara says people are preoccupied with the challenges of daily life. For the younger Christian generation in Bethlehem, this can look like taking up an easier secular lifestyle rather than serving Christ.
“We’re trying to change that. We’re trying to promote the message of Christ in every means we [can]…As a Bible college, [we are] training leaders and Christian men and women for the work of ministry so that they can do something in the area,” Sara says.
Bethlehem Bible College runs ministries through social media and community development outlets. The college wants people in the region to experience the message of Christ not only in words, but also through actions. However, Sara hopes Christians abroad will come to understand the challenges facing the Christians living in the Holy Land.
Challenges Facing the Palestinian Church
Bethlehem sits in the West Bank. It is surrounded by the walls Israel has built. Some Christians have lost their livelihoods, stability, and their lands to the Israeli occupation. The Church in this area needs its global family to walk with them in love.
“We have a lot of visitors who visit Bethlehem during Christmas. But, sadly they don’t even care to understand what’s the situation of the Christians here, or even don’t take the step to ask if there is a church or Christians that worship here,” Sara says.
“I understand a lot of them feel…emotion [or sentiment] around the place of the birth of Jesus…But I think they need to relate history to present day reality with what God’s kingdom is doing now and where are the living stones of Bethlehem…Pray for them…support them.”
Walking Alongside the Palestinian Church
Bethlehem Bible College strives to serve God in the Holy Land, despite the challenges and self-sacrifices. However, the Palestinian Church needs and yearns for the prayers of its brothers and sisters abroad.
This Christmas, pray for the encouragement of Christians in Bethlehem and the rest of the Holy Land. Pray for their strength to continue serving even as political instabilities threaten to push them out. Please also pray for God to move in the land where Christ was born, that His Gospel would be heard and taken to heart by all in Palestine and Israel.
“Christmas has also more meaning when the Church is vibrant and alive and gets really on the move in terms of building God’s kingdom. So, the Palestinian church needs all its brothers and sisters around the globe to hold its hands and raise them up so that we can continue declaring the message of Christmas in the land of Christmas,” Sara says.
Help raise up the Church in the Holy Land by financially partnering with Bethlehem Bible College. Be generous and offer a helping hand in covering the costs for Palestinian Christians to get the training they need to continue declaring the Gospel and serving God in the land where Christ was born.