Have you ever felt nervous travelling in an area that you know can be volatile ?
We felt this way when we went to visit Christ’s birthplace, in Bethlehem. It is located in the West Bank, in Palestinian territory.
There had recently been an increase in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, but the draw to see where Jesus was born was so strong, that we continued our travels anyway.
I was expecting to find a stable, since that is how the nativity scene is usually presented. Instead, we were surprised to see that Jesus was born in a cave, where animals were kept.
A huge church, the Church of the Nativity has been built over this holy cave. There are steps from the church leading into the cave, and the entrance is low, so everyone naturally must bow before they can visit the site where Christ entered the world.
Very near to where the manger stool is a beautiful icon, Mary of Bethlehem, which was brought to Bethlehem by Catherine the Great.
Because there were few visitors at this time, we were able to shop in a tourist store that was almost empty. The store owners brought us delicious refreshing lemonade, and invited us to browse amongst all the precious items.
I chose, as a remembrance, a small replica icon, a miniature of the large icon brought to Bethlehem from Russia.
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord !