Friday, December 23, 2011
But then, this would not be the shock to them that Father Ibrahim imagines. There was already a 'no vacancies' sign where the young couple wanted to stay. Luke's gospel calls it 'the Inn' and says that for the lady bearing the Son of God there was no room. In the original language of the gospel the word translates better as 'guest-chamber' and probably describes that part of the upstairs family accommodation in a typical two-storey dwelling of the period. Family and guests were upstairs, animals and their mangers were downstairs. So, maybe Joseph went to his own family relations expecting to be housed there and was refused. His only option was to place his little family down among the animals where God's Son and his step-son could be born in warmer conditions than outside on the street. Bethlehem behaves the same then, in 1st and 21st Centuries!
What about my home? How warm is the welcome in my heart for the Son of God this Christmas? Is there room for my family - all cosy around a fire - but Jesus finds his place in some draughty church building or even out on the street? Perhaps the real lesson of the suffering residents of Bethlehem today is that the work of the Prince of Peace is now needed more than ever even in our sophisticated world.
O Little Town of Bethlehem How Sad we see Thee Lie!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
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.
Christmas came early for me!