Holy Lands Tour Day 3 – Bethlehem
Today we stood in a Bethlehem shepherd’s field beneath a fig tree and sang “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem, and a few other hymns, and talked together about what it must have been like for the shepherds on the night of Jesus’s birth.
These hilly fields are where the flocks were raised for the temple sacrifices and it made me think about how Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb of God.
Being here though, I wonder if I am broken somehow. This is still a working shepherd’s field. There is plenty of evidence of it, with sheep dung all over the hard, rocky ground – and it smells bad in the heat of the day. We wander a bit around thorn bushes and slip on gravel. On a regular basis it happens that I go someplace where something sacred happened and I see all the flaws and imperfections. I hear others talk about their amazing experiences doing something like this and I want to be wowed by the Spirit and feel some strong wave of closeness to God, but it rarely happens for me.
Maybe God is teaching me something about how he uses us to work in his service and fulfill his purposes. He works with the humble, the lowly, the dirty, and the weak, and he accomplishes glorious things. He makes angels appear in dirty, smelly fields to shepherds, and babies be birthed in animal grottos, and helps a carpenter/construction worker to raise a boy to become a man who turns water into wine and who becomes, not only the savior of the wedding feast, but also becomes the Savior of the world.
I often feel inadequate to do the things Heavenly Father asks of me, and sometimes I don’t think I contribute much of any significance, but I believe I can contribute as well to the cause of God as a hard, smelly sheep field. What’s the biggest difference between me and the shepherd’s field? The field gives all it has whenever God asks, without hesitation or shame, and sometimes I hold back. What a loss for me. What a blessing I’ve had to be taught about my potential to see God’s glorious hand by visiting a smelly shepherd’s field.
Tonight we went to the Western Wall to welcome in the Sabbath. It was crowded and loud with people singing. Apparently there were some Birthright Israel groups there today that bumped the numbers up by about 600 on the women’s side. I would guess it was the same on the men’s side, because the whole place was packed! I loved seeing and hearing the rejoicing that accompanied the welcoming of the Sabbath.
As I stood there and looked at the sea of people, I had a moment of deep realization that this truly is sacred ground. It is a place made holy because of the heartfelt prayers of millions of people over time. It reminded me of the movie, War Room, when the pastor steps in and out of the closet, over and over, and he finally turns and says, “someone’s been praying in here.” The Western Wall is just like that – saturated by the prayers of people who each exercised a particle of faith.
So I guess I sometimes the spiritually powerful things do stand out to me first. Or maybe not. But as I take the time to write about my experiences I find the precious gems, and I am so grateful. I also wonder if I need to change the way I welcome the Sabbath.