What Do You Buy in Bethlehem?

Dec 2003    

“WHAT do you buy in Bethlehem?”
Asked a tourist on her way,
“Or beads, or rugs or shining brass,
Or damascene, or crystal glass?
What souvenirs, I pray?”

Now, I’ve been in the shops in Bethlehem
I’ve elbowed the travelling lot
Buying mother-of-pearl, and olive woods
And “Bethlehem stars” and other goods,
But my frozen lips spoke not.

For does one come to Bethlehem
To buy a trifling thing?
As he would go to Oxford Street,
Or does he come to bring?

The treasures of old Bethlehem
Were never bought with pelf
Earth’s poorest child could purchase there
Love, Peace, Goodwill – these treasures rare
If he but brought himself.

To a manger babe of Bethlehem
Old Persians came to bring
Their choicest gifts. Can I do less
When I know he is the King?


I’ll bring myself to Bethlehem
I’ll fit into God’s plan
To bring the angels’ song of love
To every fellow-man

I’ll trifle not with beads of pearl
Nor trays of damascene
So I can say, “See here, my friend,
To Bethlehem I’ve been.”

No, to this birth-place of my Lord,
I’ll bring the frankincense and myrrh
Of love transcendent, love aglow,
That East and West – the world – shall know
I’ve walked with Him who came to bring
The sweetest gift of earth or heaven –
Peace and Good-will to men.


Edna Dorman Lee, Editor of Methodist Message from 1925 to 1929, wife of missionary the Rev Dr Edwin F. Lee, our Bishop from 1929 to 1948.


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