Bethlehem is a place to which thousands of Christian pilgrims journey year after year, filled with a deep and profound longing to be in the place where Jesus was born. Christians express a deep desire to be in that “little town,” so still and silent, seeking connection to the land where our God took on flesh and came to dwell with us in the form of a tiny babe. This desire to come, see, and to be in the place that is central to our understanding of our faith, speaks to something deeply profound as we think about land, home, sacred space and pilgrimage.
Yet, the story of the little town of Bethlehem continues today. This story is one of walls, 12 meters high, covered with the laments of the people who long to move freely. It is a narrative of military presence, economic hardship, and political instability. This city has seen deaths, births, weddings, graduations, dancing, weeping, loss of land, and deep familial roots. Bethlehem, my friends, is a place filled with living stones.
These living stones are the people who call Bethlehem home. Some are refugees, those driven from their homes and displaced to a new place at no fault of their own. Other residents of this land can trace their history back to the time of Jesus. Some are Christian, some are Muslim. All are human beings. They are Palestinians. All are seeking and longing for justice, peace, and freedom. Each and every individual has a story–filled with dreams, hopes, memories, sorrows, and deep joy.
So as you journey with us, I ask that you consider the people of Bethlehem, these living stones. Remember the human population that walks the same stones that were present 2000 years ago, as they head to work, school, the market, or home again to their loved ones. May the cries for peace and reconciliation be heard, and let justice dwell in this Holy and Broken land.