Bethlehem is on my heart a lot these days. We have the special privilege of being there for Christmas real soon and plans are coming together to visit friends–Christian friends, Muslim friends, Jewish friends, Palestinian Muslims and Christians, Internationals. There’s a lot more to this demographic map of peoples we get to hang out with in Palestine/Israel. These wonderful people have become part of our tribe. We share a common passion and find support in one another’s company. It’s a space, not only a physical space (although it IS that too), but also an “in-between” space we love to occupy, as followers of the Prince of Peace. And we always feel like Jesus is in this space, perhaps much like he was when he walked the earth in this place 2000+ years ago. We will talk with our friends, I’m sure, about the prospects for peace and the current obstacles to peace with justice in the Holy Land. There is indeed a lot that’s in the way right now and there are leaders who seem adamant on smashing any hope for peace. But never mind. We will live into it as best we can with those who truly yearn for it and who keep working on it. Loving their “other.” Peace, real peace, the Salam/Shalom kind of peace is going to happen someday. Of that I am confident. So one of the things I love about Bethlehem especially is hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day and also seeing churches. It reminds me more than any other place in the world that we are connected. Sure we believe differently about some important things. But when we can agree to love God with our whole heart and our neighbors as ourselves we’re starting at a very good place. And it gives me much hope. I’ve been invited to preach in a church in Jerusalem when we’re there. What in the world can I bring to this place that those who will listen where I’ll be preaching can better teach me! I’m honestly a little intimidated but also honored.
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