Roughly six miles south of Jerusalem is Bethlehem, today a city of nearly 200,000, that is run by the Palestinian Authority. It’s about 40% Christian and 60% Muslim.
If you were to enter from the North, coming from Jerusalem, you would pass by Rachel’s Tomb and come to Manger Street, which snakes through Bethlehem. Eventually you would come to Manger’s Square. There you would find both the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Nativity, the traditional site of the birthplace of Jesus.
Bethlehem is a tourist town. This year they are expecting about 300,000 visitors during Christmas. If you were to visit, you would find yourself in the middle of bedlam. You would have to deal with military checkpoints, other tourists, and the gaudy commercialism (the entrance to the area where the shepherds are said to have seen the angels has a big orange sign that says, “Gloria In Excelsis Deo”).
What a difference between Bethlehem now and the Bethlehem of long ago! Today’s Bethlehem is a vivid reminder of the chaos and confusion of our world. The Bethlehem of long ago was a Bethlehem of hope.
Let’s take a few moments and examine the little town of Bethlehem was it was found in the Bible. We start with the first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible, Genesis 35—