Bethlehem is the political jurisdiction where Jesus was born. I don’t recall venturing into political commentary on my blog, but how can I not do it at Christmas time? The incarnation was a political act. The word “political” comes from the root POLIS, i.e. the structuring of relationships. The Divine broke into human history in the man Jesus Christ who entered into human relationships and commented on, submitted to, and redeemed human relationships and structures. If this is a strange concept to any reader, a good introductory read after the biblical Gospels is The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder.
Bethlehem today is a place of sad and ironic reality. Jesus came to remove the barriers between different people groups [see Ephesians 2:14-17]; he has “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… thus making peace.” It is sad and ironic then that a huge concrete wall runs through modern Bethlehem in order to separate Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims [And let us not forget the small but significant minority of Palestinian Christians]. This wall-making is not the way of Jesus. It is not the way to peace.
Recently, the United Nations declared Palestine a “state” rather than merely an “entity.” I rejoice with Palestinians in this proclamation. I lament that the Canadian government chose to vote against this resolution. As long as Palestine is not a state their violent acts can be more easily labelled as illegal “terrorism” while the same acts by a “state” are seen as legal “defensive warfare.” I do not condone the use of lethal violence by either of the states created by the UN in this region in 1948, regardless what it is labelled as. I am not a professional politician, but it seems logical to me that two equal states can negotiate and work for peace together. I know the problems [and the solutions] in the region are complex and deep, but my prayer is that the children of Bethlehem on either side of the wall will “sleep in heavenly peace” this Christmas and for generations to come.