How Still We See Thee Lie
by Pastor George Van Alstine
AD 4 At the order of King Herod, an armed militia entered the town of Bethlehem and killed all the children two years old and under. This was because of reports by some visiting eastern astrologers that a new “King of the Jews” had been born. The streets of Bethlehem are filled with families of the children, weeping and wailing.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
AD 339, May 31 Today marks the dedication of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Built over the cave where Jesus was born, the church includes fine mosaic tile work and elaborate frescoes. Emperor Constantine ordered that this edifice had to be more impressive than the Temple of Adonis, built on the site two hundred years ago by the pagan Roman Emperor Hadrian in an attempt to stamp out the worship of Jesus.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
AD 638 After accepting the surrender of Jerusalem, the great Caliph Umar visits Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Muslim Prophet Jesus. During his time of leadership, Islam’s spread will reach from Armenia in the north to Egypt in the south, from Lybia in the west to India in the east. Most residents of Bethlehem are Christians, but Muslims are beginning to settle into the area.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
AD 1099, July 16 The First Christian Crusade reaches its greatest goal with the capture of Jerusalem. The city’s Jewish and Muslim inhabitants are massacred. Godfrey is proclaimed ruler of the new Kingdom of Jerusalem. Bethlehem, five miles to the south, becomes part of King Godfrey’s realm.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
AD 1948 After the Israeli War for Independence, Bethlehem falls under the control and governance of the Nation of Jordan.
AD 1967 With Israel’s victory in the Six Days War against several Arab nations, Bethlehem becomes part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, administered by the Palestinian Authority.
AD 2012, November 30 Israel has announced preliminary plans to build thousands of new settler units in an area that would cut off access between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, a move that has outraged the Palestinian authorities and has been condemned by most world leaders as a threat to peace.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!