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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Vantage Point: Bethlehem, Today and Yesterday

By Ken Horn
Dec. 25, 2011

Christmas 2010 in Bethlehem saw tens of thousands of people converge for celebration. Manger Square was the scene of the greatest festivities. The Church of the Nativity is at the center of the square. Tradition identifies the location the church surrounds as the place of Jesus’ birth.

Inside, peace reigned as pilgrims lit candles. Outside, the scene was quite different. Palestinian policemen stood guard to minimize the possibility of violence, of which the historic city, located in the volatile West Bank, has seen more than its share.

Israeli-Palestinian violence had dropped leading up to the celebration, resulting in a significant rise in the number of tourists. Still, those visiting the town were required to cross through massive screening measures. Israel built a separation barrier between Jerusalem and Bethlehem because of a wave of terrorist attacks. Pilgrims all entered through a huge metal gate.

Two thousand years ago, Bethlehem was a much different scene. There were fewer people, and there were no entry barriers or strict security measures. Joseph and Mary arrived without fanfare that first Christmas, and the Savior of the world was born in a lowly manger.

The words “silent night, holy night” have been identified with that event ever since the song was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818 at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria. In reality, we don’t know how silent it was — there was an influx of people for the census, and the inns were full of people. (See “No Silence Here”)

But we do know how holy it was!

The birth of Jesus, the Son of God, still commands attention two millennia after it took place. That first Christmas had the attention of heaven, and a few people. Today innumerable multitudes among the world’s population honor that event.

I have been to Bethlehem and have felt the awe of being in the town where Jesus was born. But the church, with its ostentatious inner shrine to the supposed exact location of His birth, was disappointing.

What is far more important is the spiritual visit to Calvary that everyone is invited to make. That provides a peace that lasts far beyond any Christmas season.

Ken Horn

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