It was a whirlwind day! Have you ever heard the phrase, “There are no words” when something so big has happened that you find it hard to explain? That was today’s experience visiting Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, and Jerusalem’s passion and crucifixion sites. Throw into that mix, Temple Mount, surrounded by ancient walls and the historic place of the Old Testament temple, now marked with a mosque. Oh, yes, add to all that the Jewish wailing wall and you see how overwhelming this day became.
The cave over which the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built marks the place where Jesus was born. The church itself is exquisite! A star on the ground of the cave marks the exact spot of Jesus’ birthplace. Faithful pilgrims queued up for hours to enter the cave. We sang three different Christmas carols while there. Shepherd’s Field followed, signifying the place where the Angels told the Shepherds watching over their flocks by night that Jesus had been born. Gloria in Excelsis Deo!
We walked the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, where Jesus walked carrying the cross to Calvary. Chapels and churches marked each of the significant Bible stories of the passion—from the trial with Pilate to the crucifixion. Throngs of pilgrims the world over, singing, praying and carrying crosses walked the Via Dolorosa. It was a cacophony of spiritual sound. The walk is through narrow streets lined with shops and eateries and into and through the city marketplace. Somehow, this was all fitting, since Jesus was persecuted and killed in a very public way. His cross was available for all to see in a public square sort of way. When we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the crowds were thick. The church is large and beautifully ornate. The rock that marks the spot of Jesus’ crucifixion can be seen from above and from below ground. The marble slab on which Jesus’ body was placed to prepare for burial could be touched by hand. Emotional, moving, dramatic—words fail.
Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall were historic and grand, but the meaningful moments were the places that were significant stories of the birth and death of Jesus. These are the Biblical accounts that changed my life and gave me hope. “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, My Great Redeemer’s Praise!” WEG