Share Bethlehem’s Light

Churches in the Iowa area and beyond have the opportunity to light their Christmas candles from an unbroken chain of light carried directly from the the oil lamps at the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The Bethlehem Peace Light arrived at Iowa Religious Media Services in Urbandale, Iowa, on Dec. 10. Housed in a lantern, this flame is an unbroken chain from lamps burning in the cave beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where, according to tradition, Jesus was born.

Rev. Matt Schneider-Adams, pastor of St. Johns United Church of Christ in Clarence, Iowa, lit his church’s candle on Dec. 12 and will continue to use it for the lighting of the Advent wreath and on Christmas Eve services.

Bringing hope, this intangible Christmas gift is available to all who want a living reminder of Christ’s presence in our challenging, yet hope-filled times. Your church is welcome to light a candle from this lantern Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Iowa Religious Media Services, 2400 86th St., Ste. 15, Urbandale, Iowa. It will also be available at the Mid-Iowa Council Boy Scout office, 6123 Scout Trail, Des Moines, Iowa. To secure the light, simply bring a lantern or a long-burning devotional candle that can safely transport the light to your church or home.

For 32 years the International Scouting movement, including both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, has actively promoted global peace and harmony through the distribution of the Peace Light. Each year, a child from Upper Austria is named as the Peace Light Child. That child travels to Bethlehem to collect the flame from one of the Grotto’s oil lamps. The light is then flown to Vienna, Austria, where, at a Service of Dedication, the flame is distributed to Scout delegations from more than 30 countries.They, in turn, take it – with a message of peace – to their own countries where it is shared with individuals, families, houses of worship, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and cultural centers – with anyone who recognizes the significance of this unique gift.

For the past 17 years the light has also come to the United States, Canada and Mexico. Each year the Head of Security for Austrian Airline transports the Light from Vienna in two explosion-proof British miner’s lamps, fueled by smokeless paraffin oil. This year the Light arrived at Kennedy International Airport in New York on Dec. 1, where, after a brief ecumenical service in the airport chapel, the Light begins its journey throughout North America. Handed off in towns and at rest areas along the interstate highways, the light travels via a modern version of the pony express. A series of committed volunteers relays the light to cities large and small.