Monday, May 5, 2014

Words Cannot Describe... By Dustin Larson

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased" (Luke 2:14)

To say that this was merely a "good" day is an understatement.  This day was INCREDIBLE.  Today we went to the shepherds' fields for the announcement of the "good news of great joy"  (cf. Luke 2:10).  Today we sang with the angels in proclaiming God's glory.  Today we followed in the footsteps of those shepherds of 2000 years ago, visiting the place where Jesus was born.

"And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." (Luke 2:8)

The drive from Jerusalem to the Shepherd's Field was fairly short, because Bethlehem is only a few miles from Jerusalem.  Upon arrival, our tour guide took us straight to a cave.  As we were to see later, the cave where Jesus was born now looks more like a chapel than a cave, so this experience was helpful for imagining the Nativity scene.  Shortly after this, we arrived at the chapel dedicated to the announcement to the shepherds.  We paused to sing a verse of "Angels We Have Heard on High" as well as a verse of another Christmas hymn, and then departed to head up to Bethlehem.

The time in the Shepherd's Field definitely moved me.  It was a blessing to be filled with joy as we toured and sang.  To be at the very place where the angels appeared to the I took in every moment of it.

"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." (Luke 2:15)

We traveled up to Bethlehem.  After arriving in Bethlehem, we had Mass in a chapel dedicated to St. Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin.  The Mass for Christmas is offered year-round in Bethlehem, so the readings and prayers were those for Christmas Day.  It was very profound to have Mass in Bethlehem: the Word was made Flesh and represented to us; Jesus was made Incarnate once again.

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger..." (Luke 2:7)

Seeing the place where Jesus was actually born...this was the high point of my day, and the high point of my pilgrimage so far.  We waited in line for quite some time, but when we finally got there, it was worth the wait.  The place where Jesus was born no longer looks like a cave; it is now a chapel, but under the altar is an exposed section of the cave floor that has been venerated as the spot where Jesus was born.  A few feet to the side is where the manger was located.

Words can not describe my experience of being there.  All I can say is that I was given one of the greatest blessings I've ever received.  Amid all the hustle and bustle of people flowing through the chapel, I (and the rest of us) were able to just stop...and pray.  I sat down on the floor...and a moment later it struck me that I was sitting in the REAL Nativity scene.  The next two minutes were priceless as I considered how it was HERE that Jesus was born, and HERE that He was laid in a manger...  As I already said, the experience cannot be described, but it was filled with a mixture of joy, love, and humility before our Lord.

"But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)

The peace from my experience at the true Nativity flowed into the rest of my day.  We visited the Milk Grotto, where the Virgin Mary nursed the Child Jesus.  Following this was lunch at the Latin seminary for the entire Holy Land.  It was a blessing to converse with some of the Palestinian Christians.  I will avoid politics here, but I will say that the Christians in the Holy Land need our prayers.  Please pray for them, and "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6) as well as peace throughout the entire Holy Land.

As a side note, it can make all the difference when you have a tour guide that not only knows things, but truly believes them in the heart.  It was obvious that our fantastic tour guide not only knew his stuff, but he was incorporating his authentic faith into the tour as well.  The depth of the experience of today's tour was strengthened by our tour guide's faith and his love for Jesus.

I know that God will continue to bless us as we travel throughout the Holy Land.  Please pray that as we continue to ponder God's love in our hearts, we may continue opening up to receive His love in deeper ways each day.

[All Biblical quotes are taken from the RSVCE]

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these posts and awesome pictures. It is almost like being there with all of you. Many prayers are being said for each one of our pilgrims. May Jesus burst into your hearts in ways you never imagined!