BETHLEHEM – IS IT THE TRUE MANGER OF CHRIST?
We arrived in the Holy Land after a ten hour bus ride and two weeks in Egypt. We left most of our Astara tour of 100 people. Twenty two of us stayed on to visit Jerusalem.
I really didn't understand the politics of the region until I got there. We had a Palestinian tour guide and so we were to stay in “occupied territory.” This territory was actually the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven and where he suffered alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. Those 2000 year old olive trees still produce olives.
Before I left on the trip my Israeli friend told me that we must be staying in a hotel that no Jewish person would stay in, she told me the old name. The hotel, which is two blocks from the Garden of Gethsemane is built on the burial grounds of the Kidrion Valley. This valley is mentioned in the Bible as the place where bodies and souls will be resurrected in the second coming of Christ.
As we pulled up to the hotel I quietly walked up to the front of the bus. “Is the former name of the hotel____?” The tour guide said yes. I walked back to my friends, “This is the place.”
That afternoon our friends had an experience. The radio in their room turned on by itself. It started to play a song by Elvis, “I am standing before you…”One of the women saw a soldier in uniform in their room.
Later at dinner we overheard some people talking at the next table. They had seen a “visitor” from the “other” side. It looks like the hotel was alive with guests from the Spirit world.
I expected the Via Della Rosa to be a very pious, respectful place. This is where Jesus walked with His crown of thorns and carried His cross to the crucifixion.
The scene was the total antithesis of my expectations. The “stations of the cross” were along the road crowded with merchants selling their wares. No time for quiet reflection, just a “normal” busy market place amidst the great suffering of Jesus.
The Church of the Sepulcher was the place where Jesus was supposed to have been crucified and laid in the tomb. There was speculation that another small burial tomb was really the place of the resurrection. Going there in its quietude and solemn feeling made me think that it was the true place.
In the Church of the Sepulcher there was a slab of marble or granite that was on the floor. It was supposed to be the stone that He laid on at His death and resurrection. I kneeled down, and put my forehead on the stone. I was transported in feeling, expanded in consciousness. I felt that this was indeed the true burial stone.
All of this was in such great contrast to the small circular building with three lit candles in the center on the floor – the place on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven. There was this question of authenticity every where we went. There was a temple where Mother Mary was “assumed” into heaven. A grand mosaic on the floor had the entire wheel of the 12 signs of the Zodiac.
Lazarus tomb felt like his tomb. I walked down the narrow 20 steps into the small stone room. I kept repeating, “Lazarus come forth.” My voice echoed in this tiny place. It felt real to me!
We were to go to Bethlehem to visit the site of Jesus birth. The church is built over the manger in the stable or cave where Christ was born. Was this another possible site of the real manger?
Inside was a small stone cave with beautiful lanterns always lit. People came to kneel and pray there in homage of the place where the Christ child came to earth.
When something “other worldly” happens to you it doesn’t always “register” in your conscious mind right away. My experience was no different.
As you enter the church in Bethlehem, the doorway is lowered so that you bow down in reverence to this sacred ground. I walked in bowing down through the doorway. I immediately heard the “invisible choir” singing salutations to Jesus and this holy place.
The voices in unison sang praise to the Christ Child. I heard the singing in my head but also all around me. It lasted a few seconds. I was privileged to hear the great cosmic music - the choir of angels keeping the intonation of this great holy event.
Let this Christmas be a time of good cheer…a time of love and thankfulness of all our many blessings. Let us say a special prayer for those of us who are alone and feeling unloved.
Christmas is the time when the Cosmic Christ returns to earth. Every atom and molecule is filled with the love of the Christ Spirit. Let this great feeling of goodwill continue every day of the year as we move up in evolution to bringing heaven to earth.
Merry Christmas, a blessed 12 Holy Days, and all good wishes for 2010 and always!
©2009Merry C. Battles