Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christmas in March

We went to Bethlehem this week for our field trip, and the little town welcomed us just as it did the Prince of Peace.

We began by going to the Herodian, Herod's summer palace. He had an upper and lower palace, lots of bath houses and a big swimming pool. These are the columns around the pool. Herod may have been the king, and his palace is pretty impressive; but I was even more interested in seeing the sites of my King.

We then went to Bethlehem University where our Palestinian professor also teaches. After a Q&A, we got to chat with some students. There are Christian and Muslim students there, and it is a fairly presitigious university. There are about 3000 students, and 70% are girls. While we talked to these girls, we sympathized with them because there are about 60 girls and 20 guys at the Jerusalem Center.

Then we had lunch in a Bedouin-style restaurant called The Tent Restaurant. Great pita bread.
Then we went to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity which is built over the grotto believed to be the birth place of Christ. It is the oldest church, built by Constantine and re-built by Justinian. We sang lots of Christmas songs. In fact, by the end of the day I think we had sung every Christmas song I know.

By far the best part was that night. We went to some shepherd's fields and several people did musical numbers. We had a short testimony meeting. It was so peaceful to sit there and look at the stars and see Bethlehem all lit up at night. The Christmas story is a story I never tire of thinking about. We're beginning the New Testament and studying the Christmas story a lot.

This is my roommate Sara and I in the shepherd's field before sunset.

Probably one of my favorite things about being in Jerusalem is that I think about of Jesus more. You don't have to be in the place He was born to think about Him, but when you are there you can't help but ponder on how the events of Bethelehm have affected you, as an individual. Even more, the events of Jerusalem have affected us. There would be no Christmas if there was no Easter.

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