I looked on in nervous excitement as the two travelers in front of me laid down and kissed the spot where Jesus was born. This is the spot where Jesus was born. I repeated it to myself in hopes that it would help jumpstart my jetlagged mind and make it all seem real.
“NEXT,” the Orthodox priest deep in the cave called me and one of my fellow pilgrims forward and my mind froze. I’ve never venerated anything before, I thought to myself. I didn’t know what to do…but I had seen everyone else lay their bodies down flat, so I guess that’s what we’re supposed to do…I leaned forward and CRASH…I looked down to see the entire contents of my backpack sprawled out onto the exact spot where Jesus Christ was born. On this blessed, holy place were now nestled my sunglasses, water bottle and toiletry bag. I stifled a curse word, gathered my things and rushed off before I could meet the eye of the ornery-looking Orthodox priest.
I really messed that one up, I thought to myself as I walked out of the crowded church.
But as I breathed in the fresh Bethlehem air I was overwhelmed with a tremendous sense of peace. Here in this place of political unrest, after a ten-hour flight and hours waiting in line, I felt more peace than I had ever felt before.
As I thought about the chaos that surrounded my experience at the Church of the Nativity, I realized that it was in no way the most out-of-the-ordinary thing to happen there. I imagine Mary was experiencing something a lot different than jetlag that night so long ago. I imagine her and Joseph trying to make a comfortable bed of hay for the God-child on the way, rushing to find a place to rest after their long journey. I imagine the immense trust in God that was needed as inn doors were slammed in their face and they were turned away.
But when that Blessed Child was born, I’m sure the sense of peace that overwhelmed that small cave was unlike anything they had ever felt before. The fourth week of Advent reminds us of the peace found in Christ. As the angels praised, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
This Child who brought peace to the world two thousand years ago continues to bring peace to us all. The Advent and Christmas seasons always remind me of this. Sometimes during the rest of the year, we can get so caught up in our routines…even during the holiday season, the hustle and bustle can distract us from the real meaning, as we become caught up in crowds and wait in long lines. But when these seasons are lived intentionally, things can seem to slow down a bit. We can slow down to let Jesus be born into our hearts and minds once more.
You don’t have to travel all the way to the Holy Land to feel this profound peace. He is present for us whenever we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, kneel before Him in Adoration or say our nightly prayers.
By: Elizabeth Clyons, Communications Associate for the Diocese of Bridgeport