The Birth of Jesus
Bethlehem, Israel

The Church of the Nativity


Bethelem is less than five miles south and a little west of Jerusalem. However, because it is a part of what is known as "the West Bank" and is currently controlled by the Palestinians, you must pass through a military checkpoint to make the short trip. However, except for the fact that the bus had to slow down as it passed around the barricades, you would hardly notice that you are passing from one city into another. The birthplace of our Lord is preserved inside The Church of the Nativity which is under the control of the Greek Orthodox. You enter the church through a very small door so that it is necessary that everyone must bow low to enter the location of the birthplace of Jesus.

The birthplace of Jesus was in a small cave where the animals were kept. The interior of the church still contains many of the elements of the 4th century Church of St. Helena, such as a mosaic floor. As one descends below the church into the grotto you begin to realize that you are truly in a sacred place. The birthplace and manger is preserved by the Shrine of the Nativity pictured below.

Luke 2: 1-7
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firtborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Our Third Mass - Grotto of St. Joseph

In the rear of the church of St. Catherine is a staircase that leads down to a small chapel in a grotto named the Grotto of St. Joseph. In that tiny grotto our group had the almost unbelievable privilege and certainly unforgettable experience of celebrating our third daily mass . The combination of the sacred site coupled with the fact that we all squeezed together within a few feet of Father Matt, who by the way, was celebrating his first mass with his back to the participants made this mass one that will always be very special. A few minutes later, after we had visited the Shrine of the Nativity we realized how very close our mass had been to the birthplace of Jesus. The songs of Christmas will never "feel" the same again.


Photographs from Bethlehem



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