|From Holy Land|
Bethlehem is one of those surprises. I never realized how close it was to Jerusalem. Its just a few miles south of Jerusalem but not in Israel. Its in the West Bank.
Scholars say that Jesus was most likely born in a sort of cave. Apparently this wasn't so unusual as there were many caves in the landscape that would give shelter to people and animals. The Church of the Nativity lies on one of these caves that pilgrims think was the site of Jesus' birth.
The church is actually shared by three churches: Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic. Just before I went down to the part of the cave where I could touch the stone where Jesus was born, I was able to light a candle. What does one pray for when at the site of Jesus' birth? It was truly a Ricky Bobby moment as I felt like I was praying to the "Sweet Baby Jesus".
Now that I've had babies of my own, I think of the baby Jesus in new ways. I understand the holiness of a newborn but also the innocence that will soon be lost before I turn around. So as I lit my candle I didn't focus on the baby Jesus. I focused on Christmas. Standing there I was reminded of the happiness of Christmas and prayed for that feeling to be remembered all year.
As I went down the steps to the birth site, there were some pilgrims from Germany singing Silent Night. It was beautiful and since we were in a cave you can imagine that the acoustics were amazing. Later we went down to a different cave on the Roman Catholic side that was thought to be the place where Joseph had his dream warning the holy family to flee to Egypt. In this are there was a Brazilian mass going on. We went into a different part of the cave to a chapel and had our own USA Methodist worship moment.
I never felt as if I'd experienced the first Christmas nor am I convinced that this is where Jesus was born, but seeing the world come together over the "sweet baby Jesus" reminds me that a baby does change everything - even changing the world.
Until Everyone Hears,