Christmas in Bethlehem: in the night… the Light | AgentSIR

From Bethlehem, the reflection of Msgr. Vincenzo Peroni, a priest from Brescia, for 10 years pontifical master of ceremonies, and since 2020 in the Holy Land at the service of the Franciscan Custody. Mons. Peroni, among other things, is the author of the book “Touched by Jesus”, published by the St. Francis de Sales Foundation, in which he presents an itinerary of spirituality in the Holy Land

Bethlehem, Grotto of the Nativity (Photo Sir)

(Bethlehem) Who arrives in Bethlehem at night in this period of the year it is captured by the seductive play of lights and colors that envelop the streets of the city. One senses the atmosphere of celebration and joy that the Bethlemites await and prepare throughout the year: the eyes of the world, at least for a few hours, will turn to their city and, perhaps, many distant friends will decide to visit it. At the first light of dawn, the lights off and without the sound of bagpipes and percussions that enliven the evening hours, a different reality emerges before the visitor’s eyes, better to say, reality. The emotional fascination of the previous evening is replaced by the bewilderment of a city marked to a large extent by the guilty disorder and decay, as well as by the pain and oppressive violence of the separation wall.

Bethlehem, Christmas tree 2022 (Photo A. Sigilli)

It’s Bethlehem, and how can you not love Bethlehem? But precisely because you love her, it is bitter to see her like this. The power of light! A good director knows well that among the decisive choices that will determine the success of his work there is also the identification of a lighting technician who knows how to enhance actors, environments and sometimes even create spaces and suggestions. Today, technology even allows us to draw with light, to give life to virtual situations, to project images that overlap reality, changing it. So, it’s not enough to look out the window one December morning and see Bethlehem as it appears, at the first light of dawn. Far more urgent and decisive is to look at our lives and our hearts with frank honesty. It can be painful to admit that darkness has enveloped us, perhaps even with our complicity. But only the awareness of being in the dark makes one desire the light. During the night in Bethlehem, the Shepherds watched over their flock in the dark and almost forced, with their desire, the sun to rise, which announced the end of the imminent danger. Much more dramatic than the astronomical night is the existential night. To anyone who lives at night with the yearning desire to see the light of the sun, the angelic announcement comes: “Today a Savior has been born for you, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10). Those who humbly and joyfully accept this announcement are given to experience the same liberation experienced by the shepherds: “the glory of the Lord enveloped them in light” (Lk 2:9).

Bethlehem is the city of Light. Bethlehem is the grotto from which the Sun of justice and truth arose, because it comes from Above: Jesus, the Word of God, made flesh to flood the world with his gentle light and pierce the darkness that envelops the heart of man. In the night and in the dark we can hide reality or create a different, seductive and deceptive one, but when the sun shines everything takes on its true form and everything finds its real proportions. The first creative gesture was to separate light from darkness. It is what lies at the “beginning” of our own life and of every day: deciding whether to live in darkness or in the light! Bethlehem urges us to “come to the light”. For a moment, it can feel comforting and pacifying, dulling the pain and anguish with the anesthetic of deception and covering up wounds and failures with a banal “that’s okay” or “everything will be fine.” Jesus does not deceive, does not anesthetize, does not cover. Jesus is the Savior, who removes evil at its root; it is the Truth that illuminates the depths of the soul and shows it the way; it is Life itself which introduces eternity into history, which pervades the anguish of the human heart with love. “Let’s go to Bethlehem to see” (cf. Lk 2:15). Let us listen to the exhortation of the shepherds and, once again, “the people who walk in darkness will see a great Light” (cf. Is 9:1). Darkness still envelops humanity heavily. Darkness often obscures the days and thoughts of many people.

In disorientation there is only one thing to do: “Let’s go to Bethlehem to see”. Bethlehem is the city of Light. Bethlehem is where the Word of God showed himself in the flesh of a Child. Bethlehem is the House of Bread. Going to Bethlehem for us today means listening with faith to the Gospel proclaimed by the Church. Going to Bethlehem means rediscovering the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, kept in the tabernacles of our churches. The fashion of projecting images on the facades of churches is rampant, creating with light a veil that fascinates, but which covers and separates. And we witness the sad spectacle of deserted churches, of dusty kneelers. It’s up to us to decide which Light they want us to live in!

Christmas in Bethlehem: in the night… the Light | AgentSIR