Bethlehem

Wisemen Wafers

Wisemen Wafers

We are busy here at the Bible Land Explorers’ headquarters chewing the magoi. So far we’ve noted how Jesus was born in a Cold War (see here) and how the magoi were savvy politicians with a reputation for king-making and king-breaking (see here). As Christmas morning approaches, however, we lean toward something more festive: wisemen wafers!

Enter the idea of the eulogia.

Remember me?

Remember me?

I got the skinny from Father Yusef, a local priest. He was waiting to perform a baptism and was happy to chat while the family gathered. What I learned turned out to be an interesting mix of gospel and tradition. It goes like this.

They were resilient

They were resilient

The weather threw the book at us, But this cadre of pastor-teacher-professionals was up to the challenge. They were determined to the see the land of Jesus with their own eyes.

A nick visit

A nick visit

Local tradition suggests that the real St Nicholas (of Christmas fame) lived for a short time in the Bethlehem area. I pulled on my coat to visit someone who could tell me more.

A team effort

A team effort

The bus was nearly at capacity with 47 persons when we rolled into the airport. In a similar way, our hearts and minds were full. Old friendships had been enriched and new friendships had been forged over the course of the past two weeks. We hugged and shared goodbyes, knowing that as we returned home, we did so as changed people.

Christmastide pilgrims

It may seem odd to be thinking about pilgrims at Christmastide. But it is fitting. Pilgrimage is for every season. There is never a wrong time to undertake a journey for the purpose of encountering God. Most pilgrimages are unexpected and topsy-turvy experiences. Sometimes they get messy. Ask Paul the Apostle. Whom did he expect to meet on the road to Damascus? Or ask the Christmas shepherds. After they heard the angelic announcement, they said:

"Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened" (Luke 2:15).

Flock Fort 1

One cannot walk through the Palestinian village of Bayt Sahour without contemplating the phrase Migdal ‘Eder. The words themselves are simple enough to translate; pulling them down to earth and hoisting them back into the air, however, is another matter.

The Ruins of the Sheepfold

East of Bethlehem lies an enclosed area known as Khirbet Syar el-Ghanam, “The ruins of the sheepfold.” It is one of three locales in the Arab village of Bayt Sahour linked to the memory of the Christmas shepherds. Issa and I step past its gate in pursuit of deeper desert. Fortunately for us, the gauntlet of trinketmen armed with postcards, stitched bags, keffiyehs, and flutes have yet to assemble. It is still early in the day for tourists, but not for the summer sun. Sweat stripes bleed through my shirt, outlining my packstraps. We thump by, mindful of the hour.

How Christmas Trumped Realpolitik--Part II

Eb wanders in the room looking a little disheveled. His hands are in his pockets.

“Where have you been, Mr Milk Groootto?” I smirk.

He rolls his eyes. “Nowhere.”

After the whole Divine Indiscretion fiasco, I wasn’t sure when I would see Eb again. But I’m glad he’s here and I know just what he needs. I produce a plate of sugar cookies. He perks up when he sees all the colored frosting. We sit at at the table, munch, and talk texts. It is Epiphany after all, the 12th day of Christmas. Wise-men day.

A Cold War at Christmas

A Cold War at Christmas

I hold Josephus by the hand and squint into the wind.

Our view is good, but Herod’s was better. I sit with students on the stump of a tower (or “keep”) estimated to have been 120 feet tall. Herod could climb the stairs of this structure (now tumbled downslope) and scan the horizon from a lofty perch. Looking north along the Judean backbone, he could pick out the Mount of Olives. It cast a shadow over Jerusalem every morning. Looking south, he could see, or almost feel, really, the opening up of a vast desert.