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Church of the Nativity

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The Church of Nativity receives international attention annually at Christmas Eve during Christmas celebrations with participants coming from all over the globe to be at the actual spot where Jesus was born on that special night. The Church is overflowing with people and the outside courtyard is usually packedwith visitors from all over the world. Events also occur in other Christian institutions in Bethlehem like convents and schools



Background Information


The earliest church built where the Church of Nativity stands today was built by Queen Helena, Emperor Constantine's mother in the 4th Century. The Church is the church in longest continuous use in Israel, from the 4th Century until today. The location has strong traditions as the birth place of Jesus dating all the way back to the 2nd Century, and beautiful mosaics of the original church can still be seen under the floor of the present building. The church has undergone major changes through the centuries and its rich history is worth special attention for any visitor. Today this church so central in Christian lore is shared by several denominations, a cause for friction concerning its upkeep and use.























Reflections on the Scriptures



To reflect on the story:

Luke 2: 1-7:  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Whil e they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


To reflect on application to your own life:


For many years, my eyes-and therefore my heart-have beheld a pictu re of a hay filled barn-type, three-sided structure. Inside are a young woman-looking quite resplendent after hours spent in the throes of labor and delivery-and an awe-inspired man peering down on a perfectly formed Caucasian baby. If I didn't know the scene was not based on truth, I would think it no more than a fairy tale. But, based on truth is all it can be. Mary and Joseph were a poor Jewish couple who-no doubt-would have looked as though they'd just spent hours in emotional panic and physical distress. The precious baby would have had the olive complexion of a Hebrew child. Whether He slept peacefully or squirmed against the chill of life is anyone's guess.

Whether [Jesus was born in a]cave or booth or first floor accommodations, there would have been neither rows of impressive Corinthian columns leading the way, nor marble flooring etched=2 0in gold upon which Mary would position herself. There would have been neither draperies of rich fabrics nor walls dripping with icons.

Unlike many who have come and who will come in the future, I choose not to enter or even to try to enter. I stand, instead, on a hilltop and look down on the place that is no longer a simple village but a sprawling city. I imagine that Mary, a young girl who pondered much in her heart, might blush at such a notion of people flocking to see this public display of her very private moment.

And then, across rocky terrain and years of religious honor, I see her smile. I wink at her and she nods at me. She understands, I think, that I have chosen to allow her son to be born in my heart.

Any other place is just geography.

(Excerpted from Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel, t;/span>by Eva Marie Everson and Miriam Feinberg Vamosh.)

New International Version
Scriptures provided by: 
Eva Marie Everson
Reflections of God's Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel



Travelujah Tips


The Church is open all week, with free admission. To attend Christmas in Bethlehem can easily be a disappointment to the religious traveller due to large crowds and very limited access to the Church itself. Much of the life in the rest of the town on that evening is entirely business focused and carries little reverence with it, like the Christian participant might expect. Be aware that access to Bethlehem requires carrying a passport since the town is a part of the Palestinian Authority since 1994 and outside Israeli jurisdiction.


Nearby Places of Interest

Rachel's Tomb,

Shepherd's Field,

David's Well


Related Articles by Laila Asfoura

Basilica of Nativity


Grotto of Nativity


The Milk Grotto


Saint Catherine's Church




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