Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 6: Jesus' birthplace was...Spoiler alert!

Today we set off to Bethlehem. To get there from here, we needed to drive through a major Israeli check point, to get to the other side of the wall built to contain the Palestinians. No Jews can travel into the Palestinian area and no Palestinians can travel into Israel. The only exception is the Israeli Military forces. We were a bit anxious only because the check points and the Church of the Nativity are known for long lines.
Before we left the hotel, we prayed, singing all four verses of “Oh Little town of Bethlehem”. It was moving, to say the least.
The good news is that we got through smoothly. In a short time we were actually there: The Church of the Nativity. Good News at the Church of the Nativity: the queue was short when we arrived. By the time we left it was a good hour wait time. The church is under major renovations. It is the oldest standing church in the Holy Land - rebuilt in 565. The Greek Church controls most of it and the Roman Church and Armenian Church control the sides (literally left and right).

We slowly entered the cave area from the Armenian side, under the altar built to protect it. And one person at a time, knelt to pray, kiss and touch the very spot that has been venerated for close to 2,000 years. 

As we left through the Roman side, we tried to slow down, as we all felt rushed. So we stopped to recall the words of the magnificat.

We then went the place the Franciscans have been protecting and venerating a short distance away - in the fields. Here was a cave, used by shepherds for their own and their animals’ shelter at night. The Franciscans built an altar here.

Yes, that was big news to us all, that Jesus most definitely was born in a cave, not a manger. Indeed, the early writings refer to cave - but it was changed to manger.

Once we got over that fact, reality struck that we were at the very place of his birth and where the shepherds came to meet him. Greg Hout prophesied that this coming Christmas Eve is going to be amazing for us all, as he anticipated his mind will be full of images of being here and kneeling at his feet.

More to come.


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