There is so much to tell. Every day we go and we are standing on holy ground. Everything I see is a sight of awe and reverence for where I am and who God is and who I am supposed to be.
Today we went to the Holy City of Bethlehem. I cannot even sit here and write to you without tears and with out a thunder growing in my chest-- I literally can feel just awe in my heart...
Bethlehem is a paradox- as you stand in Shepherd's Field - you can imagine the angels and the shock- the awe- the holy holy holy moment the shepherds' experienced, you can feel the breezes that the shepherds would feel, touch the rocks, see the poppies, hear dogs barking as the dogs would have who herded the sheep..walk through the caves that were their homes- and across the way you see the separation wall and settlements, you see fence, barbed wire, division.
You walk in this Holy City where there is truly a spirit of Christmas, you meet lovely wonderful people - kind, generous people-- and you go through checkpoints seeing both Palestinian and Israeli soldiers carrying big guns...here in this place where wise men brought gifts.
I say none of this to be political-this is daily live here- and it is only that my heart is so full-- and yet strangely here in this place where so many may expect conflict-- I see peace.
I see the other too- yes it is here- yes there is division....but there is great unity too.
For Today in Bethlehem, a son is born- he is Emmanuel, God with us and he has been born for ALL the people.
All people come to the Church of the Nativity here in Bethlehem. It has never been destroyed as others were.... all who came and conquered here revered this place. As we stood in the church- you could see both Muslims and Christians coming to prayer in this holy place. I feel peace in my heart. These holy places, are not merely sites - no where we visit is it merely an archeological place, a historical place-- it is sacred space-a sight to behold and be filled with- and it seems to me that this sacredness, this holiness is filling me-- I feel as if I am soaking it in and up--- I will take it with me and yet there it is never ending.
So much of me is feeling like I want to stay here and simply listen more learn more be still here more. Already I know I must return - Today I kissed the rock where Jesus was born -- many places say, "Traditions says this is the place..." but here (as Mike said)-- "Here, there is no tradition, there is no doubt- this is where Jesus was born." This is why this place has not been touched... it is revered by all who come- no matter who conquers the land here-- this space is sacred and all revere it. I think it must be because this is the place where the Prince of Peace was born-- perhaps this peace-- this understanding, this reverence, will grow amongst all people-- that we also will come to see the image of God in each other- that we may come to listen more and tell less, that we may come to seek first understanding, rather than to be understood--That we may see awe and angels, where we once saw confusion and anger, that we may remember all who gathered: Shepherds, wise men, animals, and all -- all -- this child who was born for all people-- is bigger than all of us- is bigger than the mess we make and the conflicts we create---God is sovereign, God is real- God reigns. May this Holy City of Bethlehem and all of Israel allow the Holy Child of Bethlehem to descend on us we pray, cast out our sin and enter in be born in us today!