Christmas music filled our little hotel room when Drew and I returned from our morning run. Today we were celebrating the birth of our Savior and we wanted our minds and hearts to be ready.
Bethlehem has been a disappointment to me in the last decade. I dislike the walls, the signage, the trash, the tax on trees and the feeling that things are being neglected, but like the thousands of other pilgrims there I still enjoy feeling close to the area where Christ was born.
I felt for Mary as I shuffled through the crowds and tried to imagine her plight.
We visited Jerome’s cave where he lived as he completed the Vulgate before we went into the Grotto which is the traditional site of Jesus Birth.
Crowded, stuffy and nearly stifling the powerful part of the experience to me was the desire of so many to just touch the place where they believe Jesus was born. Drew and Bella were commenting on how they felt the spirit stronger in the Gilbert temple than in the Bethlehem Grotto and we discussed the blessing they have to be able to enter a house of God whenever they want. Most of these pilgrims seeking a place where the son of man had laid his head would never have a place where they could go where Christ had been.
After leaving the crowded City Walls we went to look over the Shepherds Field where we noticed caves and old Shepherds towers.
Our local guide told us that when shepherds were watching their flocks they would stay in those little towers (called inns) and then help with the birthing of the lambs. Shepherds would wrap the first born unblemished lambs in swaddling clothes to keep them unblemished. So…..it isn’t too far a stretch to think that a young couple looking for a quiet place to stay would have gone into one of these dozens of caves on the hillside of Bethlehem and had the lamb of God beside all the other lambs and wrapped him in swaddling clothes just as the lambs were wrapped. It’s exciting to think of the shepherds and the angels in and around these fields on that night of nights.
From the City of David we went to the Valley of Elah where the stand off between David and Goliath made David an instant hero in Judea. The future king was dismissed as too young and inexperienced but it was easy to see that God had given him experiences to prepare him for this decisive battle and that with God on our side it does not matter who is against us. We gathered a few rocks to remind us of the need to overcome the Goliaths in our lives.
Bella and I with my fun friend Michelle Port and our new friend Sheila.
The Valley of Elah……stone collecting…
Our final stop before returning to the hotel to eat and study was Tel Lachish. Lachish was one of the southern most cities in Judah and was conquered by the Assyrians when the temple and Jerusalem were spared. However when Jerusalem fell in 587 BC to the Babylonians Lachish held out a bit longer as prophets reminded them to repent or they would be destroyed. Sadly they too eventually suffered the same fate as Jerusalem.
Julie, Ashley , Drew, Juliette, Bella