Dr. Bill Atwood

Looking back on a trip to Bethlehem as Christmas approaches

In this Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 photo, visitors stand bellow a renovated part of a fresco inside the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
In this Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 photo, visitors stand bellow a renovated part of a fresco inside the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed) AP

Merry Christmas!

It is a time when we talk of peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind.

It all began two thousand years ago. Joseph and Mary under governmental edict had to leave their home in the village of Nazareth and travel the 80 miles to Bethlehem to fulfill the census count. While Jesus was born in Bethlehem he was raised in Nazareth, hence he was referred to as a Nazarene.

It had to be an arduous journey.

I traveled to the Holy Land this past June and was able to visit the sites that are important to the story of the life of Jesus. I traveled by bus and over paved highways. As I looked at the scenery I could only imagine the hardships that a young man endured as he walked along and cared for his pregnant wife.

When I was in Bethlehem I visited the Church of the Nativity and was able to pray at the very spot that all seem to agree was the spot of His birth. It was an awesome experience.

A young couple on our bus tour had a baby in a stroller with them and Chloe was sound asleep so I offered to watch over her whilst they descended the stairs to the birth site. It was odd to be watching over a baby at that particular spot.

As I looked over the hills surrounding Bethlehem, I tried to imagine the shepherds watching their flocks and the city as it must have looked.

My last day in Israel was quite busy. I was in a hotel in old Jerusalem, a five-minute walk from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and so at 5 a.m. I walked to visit again the site of the crucifixion and enjoyed hearing the chants of the priests in that holy place.

On that particular Friday, I visited both Bethlehem and Calvary as well as the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the temple where Pilate met with Jesus, as well as finishing the day at the Western Wall.

The places are very near one another and it sure was an emotional day.

Celebrating Christmas this year, it will be much more meaningful because of my adventure to the Holy Land due to the realization of the events that unfolded 2,000 years ago that have affected every single life since that time.

One day my tour group found ourselves on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee at sunset and, given that there were six Anglican priests in the group, we quickly organized a service of Holy Communion.

As I received communion, that evening having sailed upon the Sea of Galilee, it reminded me of my many blessings and I realized that of the many churches and cathedrals in which I have received communion, none is more special than the other.

That simple service at the shores of the sea was closer to what Jesus and his followers would have done.

This Christmas Eve, I will receive communion in a little church service in Oakhurst, in a service like those all around the world. It has been done every day for the past 2,000 years. It is a tie to what this season really represents and, just as my visit to Bethlehem and Jerusalem were tied together, so are the events of Christmas and Easter.

If you haven’t been to a church lately, I assure you that there is a seat ready for you. No reservations required. Let the joy of Christmas fill your life. He was the greatest gift ever given.

Again, Merry Christmas!

  Comments