A Holy Land Journal: “Nativity”   


From Manger Square
       it is hard to tell
              where the birthplace of Hope is
It’s more a fortress than a church…
       more a church than a stable.

The Crusaders made sure that it would be difficult to enter…
       two entrances walled up,
       a third reduced in size
              so that each Pilgrim must bend over to enter
              through the four foot door…

Initially, it is not what you might expect
       The Church of the Nativity …
              44 columns with Corinthian capitals flanking the nave…
       Greeks, Romans, Armenians
              all jockeying for position…
       All this is but a covering
              for the Grotto of the Nativity,

       the cave that was a stable…

       the humble birthplace of the King of Kings.

We poured into the Grotto

    under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
              too many tourists,
             too many pilgrims,

    all seeking to find the very place
              where divinity and humanity were joined together
              at one time, at one place.

We jostled each other in the Grotto
       Germans, Americans, Koreans…
              each one trying to get a front row view…
while upstairs
       Romans, Greeks, Armenians

       jostle each other for pre-eminence.

We paused for our daily devotions
       here in the cave that was a stable for Bethlehem’s Inn.
              But where is the stable?
              Where is the cave?
       Altars, Candles, Censors,
       Panelled walls…

We can’t see the cave
       For all the trappings of Christianity.

20 centuries ago

    people jostled each other along the streets of Bethlehem
       too many people
              in a town too small.

Each person with their own regional accent…
       each complaining about ‘having’ to make this trip
              to satisfy governmental bureaucracy…
       many complaining about the accommodations…
       some distraught that they found no accommodations.

How could God choose such a spot

    crowded with jostling, complaining, ungrateful people

       as the birthplace of hope?

How could God choose such a spot

    teeming with the very banal stuff of everyday life
              for anointing the creation through the Anointed One?

May Nativity continue to be accompanied

    by jostling, complaining, ungrateful people
              so that it will include me!

May Nativity happen in each one of us
       again & again & again & again …
As we jostle one another,
              trying to find our way to Nativity,
       May God gently jostle our hearts
              into a rebirth of Hope!

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