I grew up in a Christian home. My father was a physicist and aerospace engineer and mother was a stay at home housewife. When I was little, much as I suspect is the case for most Christian children, I was told about Christmas and Santa Claus.
Bethlehem has always loomed large in our imagination. For generations, the feelings evoked by this town have been captured in multiple art forms, serving to inspire both believers and non-believers with its message of hope and the joyful promise of new life.
Joseph and Mary remind us that Christmas is a genuine love story--the story of God's unwavering love for us and our love for him; the marvelous love of a wife and a husband and the joyous wonder of a first child.
Here in their refugee camp, the Christians with no Christmas like us in the West have placed a refugee tent for Jesus, and there in the camp is a tent for another person who was also a poor refugee who had nothing.
Instead, the plight of the Palestinian Christian is very much connected to that of the Palestinian Muslim in that both experience injustices every day as a result of oppressive and discriminatory policies imposed on them by the Israeli Occupation.
Actually, we will never know the exact birth date of Jesus. But that really doesn't make any difference, for we know that Jesus was a real person who is still alive and is a very real presence in our lives today. Let us focus on that as we prepare for a blessed Christmas celebration.
Only a generation ago, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania had a steel mill employing tens of thousands of people at good wages. The typical casino worker today in Bethlehem makes $10-12 an hour. Many are part-time.
Human beings are story-telling creatures. Stories help us to understand our world, to find our place in it and sometimes our purpose, too. So, the distinctions we draw between fact and fiction are rarely as absolute as we might wish them to be.
This week, Israel has been safe and was my best travel bet. She wears a lot of beautiful hats -- and I've been embraced and hugged by them all. I was respectful in my behavior and they returned the kindness. I'm not religious, but I pray the next person finds Israel as happy as I leave it.