A Visit to Bethlehem (Christmas History 14)

nativity churchMy Journey to Jerusalem, by Rev. Nathan Hubbell, was published in 1890.  The author shares his thoughts on Bethlehem, and the celebration of Christmas in general, and includes to quotes from poetry.  The first is from The Misletoe Bough, by Sir Henry Bishop, and the second is from Christmas, by Susan Coolidge.

After the return of our company we made a brief visit to Bethlehem. All the “sights” were seen, including the Church of the Nativity, the manger, and the various parts of the building, and near by the field where Ruth, the Moabitess, gleaned the fields of her kinsman Boaz, whom she subsequently married, and where in later centuries the angels appeared to the startled and sturdy shepherds as they announced the birth of Jesus. Our drive from Jerusalem to the ancient city was replete with interest, passing Rachel’s tomb and other noted localities on the way. Darkness gathered around us before we had fully satisfied ourselves in seeing the prominent objects contained in Bethlehem. The touch of time and the wastings of war have, in a large degree, spared Bethlehem, and it remains essentially unchanged. Many of the people are engaged in the manufacture of mother-of-pearl breast-pins, the material being brought from the Red Sea. Some of the designs are very good; they include the dove, the camel, and the Star of Bethlehem…

Radical changes in the mode of observing Christmas have, indeed, been made since the rude period when

“The mistletoe hung in the great castle hall,
And the holly branch shone on the old oak wall.”

The huge wassail bowl of punch has largely been supplanted by the less stimulating beverages of tea and coffee. The crackling yule-log has vanished before the glowing anthracite. The boar’s head has been supplanted by the far-famed turkey. The excited chase and the huntsman’s horn have yielded to the mellow tones of the Sabbath-school bell. Myriads of children in neat attire, with their parents and friends, annually commemorate the season with gospel songs and scriptural recitations at the house of God.

The term Christmas being derived from the Latin words, Christi-Massa, denoting the mass of Christ, should by all means be religiously observed. It is the birthday of the Prince of Peace. The day should not be devoted exclusively to feasting and the bestowal or reception of gifts. Let each human heart be given fully and irrevocably to Him. Acts of charity should, indeed, be numerous and multiform. Heal estrangements and banish hideous hate by the benign principle of love. Not for the day merely, but for all time. Alas ! it often occurs that

” We ring the bells and we raise the strain,
We hang up garlands every-where,
And bid the tapers twinkle fair.
Feast and frolic, and then we go
Back to the same old lives again.”


From 1st to 24th December there will be a “Christmas History” article on Windows into History every day, exploring how people spent Christmas in the past through first-hand accounts in forgotten books.  Please come back tomorrow for the next article!

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About Windows into History

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyardview.wordpress.com Administrator of frontiersmenhistorian.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Books, Christianity, Christmas, Christmas History, Faith, History, Poetry, Travel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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