[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]
In September and October of 2010, I had the opportunity to visit Israel with my wife and children. I am preparing a series of posts detailing our adventures. Since they are not yet ready, for Christmas I wanted to post a few pictures from our visits to the Nazareth and Bethlehem.
We visited the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The basilica is where the Roman Catholic church believes that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel. It was built in 1969 on the site of older Crusader era and even older Byzantine churches, the ruins of which are still visible, where originally a shrine had been erected in the 4th century in the cave where Mary had supposedly lived. The basilica features depictions of Mary from many different cultures and nations that celebrate the mother of the Son of God.
“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.” Luke 1:30-31
We also visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem which is one of the oldest continuously operating Christian churches in the world. It is built over the cave that is traditionally held to be the stable where Jesus was born. We descended into the cave itself where there is a shrine marking the supposed spot.
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” - Luke 2:7
After the Church of the Nativity, we headed out to the Shepherds field east of Bethlehem in Beit Sahour, believed by many Christians to be the very fields where the shepherds beheld the heavenly hosts announcing and praising the birth of the Christ nearby in Bethlehem. The fields are still riddled with ancient caves, and there were still shepherds with their sheep visible on the surrounding slopes and in the valley below.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:8-11
A very, very merry Christmas to all of you from the Wilson family!