Jesus the refugee

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Stories from Palestine
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Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Rev. Mitri Raheb, the senior pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Palestine. He is in the U.S. on an education and fundraising tour. The many ministries of the church include a school, two-year college, wellness center, senior center, and guesthouse. These ministries have transformed the congregation and encourage the people it serves to “transform from spectators to actors.”


In his Advent message to the congregation of Bethany Lutheran Church in Denver, Mitri talked about Bethlehem then and now. The “little town” of Jesus’ birth had about 300-500 people. It was under Roman occupation. The only reason Jesus was born there is because his parents needed to register with the Roman authorities–a form of controlling the population. Even the Magi were interrogated about the purpose of their trip as they searched for the child. When Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt, they became refugees for the second time.

The modern “little town” of Bethlehem is again under occupation. The 28,000 people who live there are surrounded on three sides by a wall 25′ high. Visitors who admit they plan to travel to Bethlehem are again interrogated about the purpose of their trip–this time by Israeli authorities at the Ben Gurion airport. Many of the Palestinians who live there–one-third of whom are Christians–are refugees for the second time. Their first homes were lost in the 1948 formation of the State of Israel. Many have lost homes for the second time due to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Palestinians now live under the same circumstances as Jesus did in the first century.

The Christmas Story is real, says Mitri. The Gospel is that Jesus came into a real world of occupation and suffering. God came as a refugee. God became one of us. God comes into our real lives and transforms them. This is the Good News!

A portion of the wall in Bethlehem

A portion of the wall in Bethlehem

  1. al zook says:

    Thanks Jeni, Keep on keeping on.

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