Monday, December 14, 2015

Conflict at Christmas

          During the month of December 100,000 tourists flock to visit the little town of Bethlehem. 15,000 will visit on Christmas Eve alone. Our image of the birthplace of baby Jesus looks nothing like the reality. During the rest of the year, many tour groups, including ours, do not visit Bethlehem any more. Part of the reason is it is  controlled by the Palestinian Authority. 
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

The other reason we don’t take tour groups to Bethlehem is the main attraction, which is an old, ornate, church that commemorates the site where Jesus was born. It is called the Church of the Nativity, but it could more accurately be called the Church of Division. Three different religious groups own the church: the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and the Armenian Apostate. 

Brawl in church in Bethlehem
For decades they have been unable to unite and agree on how to best administer and restore the church. The 1,700-year-old church is in need of serious repairs. Each group cleans the parts they claim to own, but some things overlap, and none of the groups will let each other pass over their area. Every year there are brawls over who owns which alters, passageways and chandeliers. One time 100 priests fought each other with broomsticks.

As you walk into the cavernous church, you can sense the tension. It is cold, hard, dusty and dark. It bears zero resemblance to the simple cave and manger where the Bible says baby Jesus was born. In fact, it doesn’t remind you of Jesus at all.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

Jesus was born to bring us peace; the peace that passes understanding, the peace of knowing our eternity will be in heaven, and peace on earth.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace 
with everyone.” Romans 12:18

As Believers, do our lives represent Jesus well? We don’t want our lives to look so ornately decorated with ‘stuff’ or activities, that there is no resemblance to Jesus. We don’t want our lives, conversations and attitudes to be so divisive that we never represent the Prince of Peace. Hopefully, our walk with the Lord is not cold and empty, but instead filled with Love and Joy. As Christ’s representatives to a world that is full of hate and hurts, let’s make sure we resemble Jesus more than the Church of Division the Nativity.

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, 
if you love one another.” John 13:35


  1. Interesting to hear about that church. I had no idea. May our lives reflect the love of God and may He draw us close to Him. Blessings!

    1. Yes indeed! I'm glad He came to give us everlasting peace, even if there is none on earth.

  2. Thank you for sharing. We have some friends who just recently went over in September and shared with us about the Church of the Nativity, but I didn't realize it was owned by three different groups. Very interesting parallels in how we represent Christ and how we can miss the mark by fighting instead of serving.

    1. I bet they had a wonderful time in September. Yes, it is interesting that there is not peace in the place where the Prince of Peace was born.

  3. Great post, Robyn. It does sound like that church doesn't show Christ. Sounds like it more accurately portrays the attitudes of so many years ago ... no room for Christ here. Thanks for sharing this! Your pictures are beautiful.

    1. Thanks Dianne! Yes, it does remind me of the town so long ago when Christ was born there.