BETHLEHEM AND HER CHILDREN
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
Eighteen hundred years (Ed Note: now nearly 2000 years) have rolled their rounds since the events recorded in the last chapter occurred; but Bethlehem still stands on the end or spur of the mountain, where it has stood thousands of years, and where travellers will visit it with interest and veneration till the end of time.
The valley which surrounds the city on three sides is luxuriant and beautiful, and is shaded by olive, fig, pomegranate, oleander, and myrtle trees, interspersed with flowers of rich and varied hue. Some of these, no doubt, bloom on the same field where Ruth gathered her barley. But whether you imagine it on that undulating ground at the south, or in that beautiful valley which stretches off a mile or more at the east, or where, as you take the northern path, you pass through the grove of olive-trees and go on towards Rachel's grave, it matters not; it is somewhere near at hand, and the outlines of the scenery are the same as when Ruth saw them that day with a happy heart, as she hastened home with the fruits of her labor to her mother.
The village itself is now a sad and uninviting place. Dull, blank walls of low stone huts with flat roofs, line each side of the main street, which is narrow and unpleasant. No street-lamps are burning brightly at night, as in modern cities, neither are there lighted and pleasant windows on a dark evening, intimating to the traveller that there are happy households gathered around the social hearth.
The inhabitants are a motley mixture of Greek, Latin, and Armenian Christians, with some Turks and Arabs. Their principal employment is the manufacture of the shell of the pearl oyster into crucifixes, etc., which are sold in large numbers to the pilgrims, who are glad to carry away something from this sacred spot. Some of the shells are smoothed and carved with designs taken from the Scriptures, such as the flight into Egypt, the nativity.
The costume of the inhabitants is gay and fanciful. The Turks wear different colored turbans wound around their heads, while their pantaloons are broad, and their coats loose and flowing. Their manners and customs are in many respects the reverse of ours. At their meals they sit on the floor, eat with their fingers, and show their politeness by helping themselves before they do their guests. They turn their toes in while walking; and on entering a church, instead of uncovering their heads as our gentlemen do, they remove their shoes. They write from right to left; and in mounting a horse, take the right side. An inquiry after their wives they resent as in insult.
Besides the inhabitants mentioned, the city is often crowded by pilgrims who visit in large numbers the birthplace of our Lord. It is supposed by many modern travellers, that the identical spot where Christ was born is pointed out—a cave in the eastern part of the city on the brow of the hill; and as such caves or grottoes abound in Palestine, and are sometimes used as stables, the supposition is that Christ was born in such a place. A convent and church stand over this grotto, and completely shut it out from the light of the sun. This convent was built by Helena, the mother of Constantine, and is a huge pile of large stones, and adorned with great magnificence. But who would not much rather see the manger as it was, eighteen hundred years ago, when a bed of straw was the cradle of the Lord of glory, and his worshippers, though few, were true and sincere?
Great events have taken place from time to time upon this earth, but the greatest of all, in connection with its results, occurred in this little town of Bethlehem. Here that "Bread of heaven" came down, of which if a man eat he shall hunger no more. It was a little city, and but little honored among the cities of Judah; but God placed honors upon it which can never be effaced. As long as time endures, Bethlehem of Judah will be known. While we reverence the city for the sake of One who was born there, let us not forget to place our heart's best affections upon Him by and for whom all worlds and beings were made; but who condescended for our sakes to take our nature, and become the Babe of Bethlehem, the Man of sorrows, the dying Saviour, our Elder Brother, and everlasting Redeemer.
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
"When marshaled on the nightly plain,
The glittering host bestud the sky,
One Star alone of all the train
Can fix the sinner's wandering eye.
Hark, hark! to God the chorus breaks,
From every host, from every gem;
But one alone the Saviour speaks,
It is the Star of Bethlehem.
Once on the raging seas I rode—
The storm was loud, the night was dark,
The ocean yawned, and rudely blowed
The wind that tossed my foundering bark.
Deep horror then my vitals froze,
Death-struck, I ceased the tide to stem;
When suddenly a Star arose—
It was the Star of Bethlehem.
It was my guide, my light, my all;
It bade my dark forebodings cease;
And through the storm and danger's thrall,
It led me to the port of peace.
Now safely moored—my perils o'er—
I'll sing, first in night's diadem,
For ever, and for evermore,
The Star, the Star of Bethlehem."
Back to Top of Page
Go to Gospel Web Books Index
Go to Gospel Web Main Index