The Christmas Church at Bethlehem
Living in the location of God’s incarnation, contextual and incarnational theology is an inseparable part of the lives of Christians in Bethlehem. Shaped by this, the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem has long sought to empower local expressions of the gospel – in theology, in culture, in community, and in education.
The congregation at Christmas Lutheran is very active not only within the church but throughout the surrounding community. Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb has served as pastor of Christmas Lutheran since his ordination in 1988.
Worship at Christmas Lutheran
There has been a continuous worship life in the sanctuary of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem since 1893. Each Sunday worshippers from Bethlehem and around the world gather for worship in the sanctuary.
As visiting worshippers gaze at the stained glass windows present throughout the sanctuary, they are likely unaware of how lucky they are to see them all intact. In fact, the stained glass windows, from the Emperor Stained Glass Factory in Germany, are the only windows made by this factory in this style to survive in total.
It is even more amazing that these windows have all remained intact, due to the fact that the church suffered damage in both 1967 and in 2002. In 1967 the roof and ceiling of the sanctuary were damaged by a bomb. Then again, in 2002, the church was in the middle of fierce Israeli shooting and bombing. While under curfew, Bethlehemites could hear glass breaking everywhere. Pastor Raheb, who lives with is family in the parsonage on the church compound, also heard glass breaking and feared it was the stained glass windows. No one could get out to check on the sanctuary until a few days later. When Pastor Raheb was finally able to go into the church, he was astounded and grateful to see that all the windows remained unbroken, and largely intact. There is one small hole in the red robe of a person in the left chapel windows, which is hardly noticeable, but serves as a reminder of the frightening chaos and the damaging attacks in 2002.
For more information on the architecture, construction, windows, organ, or bells, we invite you to visit our History section.
Congregational life at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem is active throughout the weeks and seasons of the Church Year. Programs and Gatherings include Sunday School and Youth Programs, Bible Studies and Christian Education, Social Gatherings, Special Events, and Retreats. Each year a new theme is chosen by the Church Elders, and a plan for the year is formed to encompass all members.
Pastor Raheb, Church Elders, and the Women’s Committee are all active in visiting congregational members in their homes, and growing in relationship with one another.
Back to top
Pride in Education for Bethlehem
Meaning ‘the house of the Word’ in Arabic, Dar al-Kalima takes its name from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, with reference to the Word (logos)–the Word of God at work in shaping the world, who is enfleshed in humanity in Jesus Christ. “‘The Word’, not ‘the words,'” as Pastor Raheb says, “since our people are fed up with rhetoric and speeches.” but eagerly looking for the Word of God.
Over the last two decades the mission and ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem has grown to encompass the International Center of Bethlehem (ICB), Dar al-Kalima Health & Wellness Center, and Dar al-Kalima College. Christmas Lutheran also works in partnership with the ELCJHL Department for Education at Dar al-Kalima Evangelical Lutheran School.
Back to top
Hope for the Future
Reflecting on the growing mission and ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, Pastor Raheb says: “My hope is that twenty years from now, most of the artists, musicians, journalists, religious educators and communication specialists in our area will be graduates of the Dar al-Kalima College. The symbols of a society are shaped by these people. Developing an identity is like an olive tree which is deeply rooted but whose branches grow out and spread in different directions.”
Back to top
Sunday: 10:30 a.m.
Back to top
Pastor Dr. Mitri Raheb
The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church
P.O. Box 162
Bethlehem, Palestine (via Israel)