As Christmas Decorations Go Dark in Bethlehem, Pastor Shines Light of Jesus with Tent Display

BETHLEHEM – While the war between Israel and Hamas is focused in Gaza, its impact is expanding and is now affecting the birthplace of Jesus at a key time of year.

Christmas won’t be celebrated as usual in Bethlehem. The city’s municipality announced the traditional Christmas decorations in Manger Squiare will not be put up in an effort to show solidarity with those suffering in Gaza. 

“The underlying sentiment is this,” explained Bethlehem Pastor Stephen Khoury. “They are trying to set a point in the community that even though Bethlehem, the Christians in Bethlehem, are not involved in the battle in Gaza, what they what they feel is that as Bethlehem sites, they don’t want to come across as insensitive to the suffering of the Gaza civilians.”

Khoury is the founder of Holy Land Missions in Bethlehem. He doesn’t agree with the decision.

“I don’t think Christmas should be canceled,” he stated. “They say they’re not canceling Christmas and canceling the festivity of it, the lights, the decorations and so forth. But really, that’s the joyful part of Christmas from the outwardly it’s sort of day-to-day thing.”

Khoury added, “So if they want to not do the light celebrations, that’s fine. I don’t like it, but it’s a decision. They’re not holding us back from doing prayer services and doing a Christian religious service. They’re not holding us back or stopping us from doing that.”

A Facebook post from the municipality did say they wanted to show solidarity with Hamas. Pastor Khoury is looking to redeem the situation and the season.

“So, here’s what we’re doing: where we tell people to let the lights go out, but let the light of Christ shine, let the decorations be taken down, but let the symbol of Christ’s promise be heard, and stand – what we’re doing in the month of December, and probably till the early January is, we’re going to set up a tent, said Khoury.

The tent is a prelude to an encounter experience center.

“We’re going to call it the nativity encounter Christmas tent, the Hope tent,” Khoury told us. This nativity encounter tent is, we’re going to get people to walk through this tent, Chris. And it’s a Bible discovery experience. And people can feel –touch something – dealing with what it would have looked like during Christ’s days in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. And they walk out the other side getting the message that the miracle has happened here.”

Khoury wants to keep Christmas centered on Christ.

“We are bringing it back to ground zero and that the Christmas season, it’s about Jesus. He’s the reason for this season. And that’s what I plan to do throughout Christmas. And we invite the world to pray, to stand and to come volunteer with us at this tent,” he said.

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