Have you ever been on a very long trip away from home….maybe even months or years away from the place you grew up? Or if you grew up in many places, maybe you have spent an extended amount of time away from the people you called home? Maybe you have intentionally stayed connected with “your people” and talked or called often, but spending time together face to face always seems like a logistically impossible thing to do? Flights are expensive, vacation time is hard to coordinate. Kids have busy schedules with school and activities. Maybe there has been an illness which has kept you from traveling. Or maybe the memories of your home are sheltering something you have buried deep away from the forefront of your mind and you just can’t go back. Maybe “your people” are no longer here – or there. Visiting is something you hunger for, but there is no one there to visit any more.
I never knew I was away from home until I arrived here this week….Landing in Israel after a 10 hour flight….after days of packing…after months of planning….after years of thinking one day I would get to come. Now I am here and I realized what was missing from my physical self. The feeling of being here is like coming home after a long long journey. Jesus lived here. The words wash over me like a warm shower. I am walking on the streets he walked on. Yesterday I touched the place where he was born. I met his his mother’s family’s home where John the Baptist was born. I saw and touched the church where John’s father Zechariah spoke the words of prophecy over John and over the Lord who was coming – in Mary’s womb while her sister Elizabeth was carrying John who would prepare the way.
I feel like Jesus has been preparing the way for me to come here for many years. I have never felt the presence of the Lord as intense as now. God is so good. He prepares our way, He makes our paths straight, He loves unconditionally and He speaks to us when we least expect it.
I will try my best to share the trip in a way that is meaningful for anyone who wants to read it. The days will go by fast I am sure. Yesterday was just a blink. I wish every person in my family was here with me. Since they are not, this will have to do!! Enjoy the pictures! With love, Heather
1. Arriving at the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – the site where Jesus was born. The door here was deliberately cut much smaller in order to keep out farmers in the 1700’s who would come in on horseback to salvage wood and materials from the neglected church to build their own homes. The church has been undergoing restoration since 2013 and now is becoming beautiful once again.
I am 5’11” — about 40% taller than this entry !
3. As we were entering into the site of Jesus’ birth – not the traditional “manger scene” we grew up learning in our western culture. His birth was actually in a cave, down a stairwell. Whether this was the exact spot of His birth we may not exactly know for sure, but the context is certainly accurate. In the desert land of Israel there are many rocks, hills, caves and Mary and Joseph traveled on a camel for 4-5 days to reach Bethlehem only to find there were no places to stay other than a spare space within a cave below the home of a local landowner. This is representative of what we saw…
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” Revelation 7:9
I leaned in to get a glimpse of the star representing the birthplace of Jesus…
Jule and I experienced a 5 minute camel ride….I cannot imagine traveling by camel the 4-5 days it would have taken Mary and Joseph….and she was about 9 months pregnant!!! That sweet sweet precious mother.
Many caves exist through the desert land where Mary and Joseph would have traveled – and where Jesus would have walked. This land is where Abraham lived in ancient times as well. Seeing the landscape and knowing the history – everything comes together in a totally different way. I can now see clearly what the earth must have looked like for Abraham – and his sons – and for May and Joseph – and for Jesus. And for us today the land represents to home – the truest Holy Land.