I love Bethlehem!!! …There I said it.
Jerusalem is fascinating and holy and people from everywhere come here but it’s also a city; busy, noisy and full of tension.
Traffic, light rail, The Holy Sepulchre and the Lutheran Redeemer bell tower
Bethlehem is a city and lots of people come through there but it doesn’t have that busy, noisy feeling of a city. It has the rhythm of a village. I’ve been there twice since I arrived in the Holy Lands and I’m sure I’ll be back a number of times before I go. It’s only 7 kilometers to the south of Jerusalem.
There is much to say about Bethlehem, the home of Jesus’ nativity birth, but for today I just want to share some of the architectural beauty of the Church of the Nativity.
I’ve heard this Basilica, as it is sometimes called, described as gaudy and overdone. And I’ve heard much speculation about whether this is really the spot where Jesus was born. ‘I mean really, how can we be so certain?’ goes the rationalizing… and maybe we can’t know, maybe we don’t even need to know … exactly where. But I love the place, sure the decorating idea of, “if a little is good, a lot must be great” is a proven philosophy but to me the decoration and adornment speaks much more to the near eastern culture in which and of which it finds itself not to the proof of whether Jesus was born there or not. And I’m OK with following the tradition of this being the spot. If nothing else this “spot” is the oldest continuously operating church in the world, it was commissioned by Emperor Constantine around 326 AD. (Yes it’s been reworked a few times, but its still working…)
For me more than anything the church and the city is a place to go, to revere and to remember the start of a life and an event that changed the world and the hope, I believe, of the world forever. Thank you Jesus, thank you God!
But I didn’t quite make it to X marks the spot because if I understood the rumors correctly 600 Polish people where in town with their Arch Bishop and he was conducting a service in the Grotto of the Nativity so I decided to come back later…
… and then found that other rumors where true… the crowds will descend and make for a long wait… I think I’ll check it out next time…
Definitely next time…