Bethlehem now

Bishop Pat Power

Bethlehem: 'The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee.' Bishop Pat Power offers this Christmas reflection.

- By Bishop Pat Power

'Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem…' (Luke 2:4)

As we remind ourselves each year, Joseph and Mary made their long journey, compelled by a census. It became a journey of joy as Mary gave birth to a baby whom we call the Prince of Peace.

As we sing Christmas carols, we are invited to think of Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. This year, I’d invite you to think also of what Bethlehem has become today. 

To make the journey from Nazareth in Israel to Bethlehem in Palestine today, Mary and Joseph would have to cross through approximately 70 Israeli barriers - checkpoints, fences, walls and barriers which would involve multiple interrogations and delays – and they would be lucky to be allowed through at all. 

These same barriers prevent shepherds watching their flocks, either by day or by night. Most people in Bethlehem have been cut off from their grazing lands, which has significant economic effects. To get work in nearby Jerusalem means being able to get a special permit, which is difficult; and few in number. 

The Magi would probably not have been able to get anywhere near Bethlehem, and the Holy Family certainly couldn’t have fled to Egypt when the threats to life began. 

As I write, there are reports of Israeli settlers throwing rocks at Palestinian cars entering Bethlehem, and destroying Palestinian olive trees. A new film made by Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers titled Bethlehem is dubbed a dark thriller for its close-up portrayal of life in the West Bank. 

So is there a bright shining star over Bethlehem today that guides us to the Christ? 

Indeed there is! Ask any who have taken the road to Bethlehem – and they will speak of the life of Christ lived out among the people.   

I invite you to behold the Bethlehem of today and enter the story of the journey of Christ. The parallels of the suffering of the people today with the story of Jesus’ entry to this world allow us to enter the story of Christ’s entry to our world in a profound way. Because the journey of Christ, though it comes through suffering, is always a journey of joy.

PHOTO: Bishop Pat Power

FULL REFLECTION: Come ye to Bethlehem 2013 (Catholic Voice)

More Christmas reflections:

When Man tries to save himself: The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta, December 19 (L'Osservatore Romano)

Christmas message from Bishop Greg O'Kelly (Diocese of Port Pirie)

Archbishop Porteous Christmas Message 2013 (Archdiocese of Hobart)

Watch: Christmas Message 2013 Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney (YouTube)

Watch: Christmas 2013 Message from Bishop Patrick Dunn (Auckland Diocese YouTube channel)

Related information:

Bishop Pat Power is a member of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network 

For Advent reflections from Christian Palestinian leaders, go to

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