Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Come Alive!

This was the scene in Nazareth Village last week when Matthew and I visited there as part of our special week in Israel.   We took this time out to be just 'father and son' together in advance of Matthew getting married early in 2012 and my starting work again.  It was just great to be touring such special places together.  We hired a car and a Jewish tour guide and saw some spectacular places.  This moment in Nazareth saw us in a re-enactment of a first century Jewish 'carpenter's shop' such as Joseph worked in and Jesus grew up in.  Nearby was a first century wine-press which would almost certainly have been a centre of community gatherings at times of the year for Mary, Joseph and their special son.  All of this helped to prepare us for this special season of Christmas - yet knowing Christ today is so much more important than visiting the places that he walked in 2,000 years ago.  Having said that, it adds a certain colour to our seasonal celebrations to be more able to picture the events and the atmosphere of that time.

Another very special open air place was the Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive trees thought by some to date back to the time of Christ.  They need protecting and preservation now after the centuries but they still gave us the opportunity to pause and reflect here on what Jesus went through in that garden, and why.  Funnily enough, prior to my first visit here I always imagined Gethsemane to be an English country garden with lawns and flower beds perfectly symmetrical in their layout with sprinklers and trimmed bushes!  Now that I have seen its stark and dry harshness again I can appreciate how much pain this place meant to Jesus and yet how significant it was to him, and is now to his followers.
Our visit to the Holy Land has given us both food for thought.  We thoroughly enjoyed each other's company and the good nature and hard work of our guide Omri.  Above all, we were grateful for the health and strength granted to me after my long battle with serious illness and the joy of doing something so different to the scores of trips made to distant hospitals in the past.

Christmas came early for me!