I had the great privilege of spending a large part of the summer of 2011 in the Holy Land working with a team of archaeologists on a dig site in the Galilee. Recently, I went back through my journal from that summer, and want to share this short reflection from our time in Bethlehem:
“After our time at The Dome of the Rock, we went to the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square of Bethlehem — the ‘traditional’ birth place of Jesus. The town of Bethlehem has been a town marred by violence. During the 2nd Intifada (circa 2001) Israeli troops stormed Bethlehem. Toward the end of the fighting, several Palestinian resistance fighters sought solace in the sanctuary of the Church of the Nativity. Much to the Israeli’s chagrin, the Catholic priests in charge of the sanctuary would not force the Palestinians out, nor would they let the Israeli soldiers in. For them, a sanctuary was to be just that…a sanctuary — a place of God’s shalom.
But Bethlehem has always been a symbol of unrest. Mary had absolutely no desire to go to Bethlehem. It was not her hometown! Yet an emporer who she would never meet and had no knowledge of her existence issued a decree. So off she went, I imagine begrudgingly, into this foreign land. Never in her life did she think she would find herself, amidst her doubts and unbelief, about to give birth in this foreign little town in Bethlehem.
Yet it was in that time of disruption and disfunction that a Savior was born.
It was in that moment of chaos and confusion that Christ was most present to her.
May it be the same for you!”
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins and enter in,
Be born to us today.