Enjoy LE Family 😊
‘I started writing this blog in Jerusalem, Israel, the historical birthplace of Jesus. I was on a 10 day pilgrimage from Tiberias to Jerusalem via Bethlehem.
I have a theology degree and I’ve read and studied the bible extensively, attended church and prayed for years.
What I’ve realised being on pilgrimage is that because we are so accustomed to the modern world it is difficult to imagine a world that existed several hundred years ago.
Nothing makes a difference like being there and smelling, tasting, touching and breathing the air and walking on the soil of The Holy Land. It’s like watching a movie in three or four dimensions and suddenly realising that what you had been watching before was flat, monochrome and lacking in the subtle nuances of a lived experience.
That is how I can best describes my encounter with being here on the ground and observing first-hand the scenes and sight I had learnt about as a child and studied as an adult.
The story of Jesus’ conception, birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension have taken on a completely difference significance.
The difference between reading about a walk from Galilee to Capernaum suddenly takes on a different meaning went one actually travelled the route and experiences the course terrain, twists and turns of the road, the ancient ruins of domestic dwellings sitting on top of each another.
Christmas takes on a whole new meaning. Rather, visiting The Holy Land, offers a whole new insight and a fresh perspective to The Christmas Story.
Whether or not the sites I visited were the actual locations of historical happenings in the life of Jesus or not they offered a concrete insight to the context, environment and typography of what life was like back in the day when Jesus lived on earth.
A particular experience is worth recounting. Our tour guide led us on a visit to a recently developed site called Magdala, a fishing village thought to be the home of Mary Magdalene, which is still currently being excavated.
While excavating the land to lay the foundations for a new hotel builders discovered this first century town.
Archaeologists subsequently discovered a first century synagogue on the site a Migve (ceremonial cleansing bath) and ancient pathways. We were led down some steps in a church that had been recently built over what is believed to be a section of the main thoroughfare of the historic town.
Once in the cave like enclosure the guide recited the bible story about the woman that suffered with constant bleeding and pushed through the crowd to touch Jesus and was finally healed after 12 years of seeing the most eminent specialists that were unable to help her.
Our guide, a Jewish agnostic, asserted with absolute conviction, that he was almost one hundred percent certain that given the location of the town and the main thoroughfare it was most probable that Jesus walked on the very stones we were standing on.
At that point something strange happened! Without saying a word the group simultaneously took off their shoes and lay prostrate on the ground praying.
I was in a jovial and relaxed mood at the time. Suddenly, I was in tears and had what could only be described as a vivid picture in my imagination (not a vision) of who I considered to be Jesus walking on the stony ground.
I sat alone silently and was reminded that Jesus was a real historical figure with a unique and particular mission which He fulfilled!
This brings me nicely to the Christian story of Christmas as documented in the bible. It goes like this: a young lady named Mary, engaged too be married to.
Joseph, a carpenter, was going about her business when an angel appeared to her and told her that she would become pregnant by God’s power and that she would carry the Messiah, Christ, The saviour of the world.
Nine months later she was the Mother of The Son of God, norm in humble surroundings and soon a refugee in Egypt fleeing from a despotic King that wanted to kill her child.
For thirty years Jesus lived in relative obscurity. An Ild Testament prophet called Isaiah described him ‘as having no beauty that we should desire Him’ (Isaiah 53: 2). In other words, He was ordinary and did not stick out in a crowd.
The only insight we have to His 30 years before ministry is reference to Him getting lost as the family travelled home from worship at The Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2: 41 – 52).
Christ’s birth, Christmas, was announced with a flurry of activity taking place between heaven and earth. The gospel writers record activities involving Magi, Wise Men (Matthew 2: 1 – 12), Shepherds and angels (Luke 2: 8-20) all surrounding His birth.
While in Israel we visited a site that was believed to be ‘The Shepherds Fields’ referred to in the gospels. A natural cave, complete with a smoke stained roof, betrayed the fact that the site had been a refuge for Shepherds and their sheep against the cold, frosty winter weather.
The gospel writes tell us that Jesus began His ministry by announcing His true identity in a synagogue in Nazareth and spent the next three years preaching that ‘the Kingdom of God’ was near and spread the good news about God’s willingness to forgive human beings of their sins.
Jesus was eventually arrested, tried, sentenced to death and crucified. On the third day He rise from the dead (resurrection) and went back to heaven (ascension).
50 days after His ascension (returning to heaven) His scared disciples were gathered in a room when The Holy Spirit filled the space and they began speaking in younger – the church was born!
Every year Christmas is celebrated in Churches across the UK and around the world, we take time to thank God for the miracle of Christ’s Burton and the possibility of our sins being forgiven.
That is the true meaning of Christmas. The Apostle John, writer of the fourth gospel, describes Jesus’ birth as ‘moving into the neighbourhood’, God choosing to be intentionally close to human beings so they we could experience His love.
This is why we celebrate Christmas as Christians. The food, the presents, the time with family are all important. However, the most important thing we celebrate is that God in Christ enacted a rescue plan to offer all human beings the possibility of a relationship with Him through Jesus. So, enjoy the season, enjoy time with family and friends, enjoy your presents.
However, don’t forget to take time out to remember what Christmas is really all about: God reminding you and I that His love for us is real and relentless. Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year and decade. 🖤