Bethlehem: Exploring the Church of the Nativity (Episode Five)


(PEACEFUL MUSIC) JACK BECK: THE FIELDS
OUTSIDE OF BETHLEHEM ARE BEAUTIFUL IN
THE MORNING LIGHT. THE JUDEAN HILLS ARE A LITTLE
LESS SEVERE IN THIS PLACE AND THE GENTLE ROLL OF THE LAND PROVIDES THE ROOM
NEEDED TO GROW GRAIN. THE NAME BETHLEHEM
REFLECTS THIS. TRANSLATED, IT MEANS
“HOUSE OF BREAD”. AND LIKE THE BREAD
THIS LAND PROVIDED, THE STORIES WE SEE HERE ARE STORIES OF PROVISION,
OF SOLUTIONS. THE STORY OF RUTH, A GENTILE WIDOW
WHO GATHERED SCRAPS FROM THE FARMER
BUT THEN WAS PROVIDED WITH ACCEPTANCE,
SAFETY, AND BLESSING. OR THE STORY OF DAVID, A SHEPHERD BOY
WHO WAS CHOSEN BY GOD TO LEAD HIS
FLOUNDERING NATION TO JUSTICE, SECURITY
AND FLOURISHING. AND THEN, 2,000 YEARS AFTER
ABRAHAM FIRST PURCHASED DEEDED LAND IN THIS COUNTRY, A BABY BOY WAS BORN TO
PARENTS OF LITTLE MEANS: ABRAM’S FAR OFF
DESCENDANT, JESUS, WHO WENT ON TO
CHANGE THE WORLD, BRINGING PEACE,
LOVE, AND BLESSING. THIS PLACE, BETHLEHEM,
IS A PLACE OF PROVISION. EACH YEAR,
MILLIONS JUST LIKE ME COME HERE TO REMEMBER
THE BIRTH OF THAT BOY, TO VISIT THE CHURCH
OF THE NATIVITY, THE TRADITIONAL SITE
OF JESUS’ BIRTH. (GROOVY JAZZ MUSIC) JACK: MORNING.
GOOD, THANKS. HOW ARE YOU? MAHIR: A LOT OF
PEOPLE THINK OF THIS AREA AS THE MOST HOLY AREA
IN THE WORLD. AND WE LIVE HERE,
WE HAVE OUR HISTORY HERE, AND OUR ANCESTORS AND WE’RE ABLE
TO COME EVERY DAY TO THIS CITY
AND TO BE BLESSED AND TO FEEL THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHICH IS A GREAT
BLESSING FOR US AS BETHLEMITES AND
CHRISTIANS OF THIS TOWN. JACK: SO, JUST LIKE JESUS WOULD HAVE WALKED
THIS PASSAGEWAY, YOU WALK THIS PASSAGEWAY.
I MEAN, HOW IS THAT… GOING TO CHURCH,
WALKING IN THAT SORT OF… WITH THAT SORT OF
HISTORICAL DEPTH. THAT’S AMAZING. THIS IS MY
LONG-TIME FRIEND MAHIR, WHO’S AN ELECTED MEMBER
OF THE CITY COUNCIL HERE IN BETHLEHEM. MAHIR’S FAMILY HAS
BEEN IN BETHLEHEM SINCE THE 16TH CENTURY.
AND FOR GENERATIONS, THEY HAVE ATTENDED
THE CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY. JACK: THIS IS YOUR CHURCH? MAHIR: (SPEAKING IN ARAMAIC) THE OLDEST AND THE MOST
HOLY CHURCH IN THE WORLD. NOW, WHEN I ENTER THIS CHURCH, I HAVE A FLASHBACK ON
ALL OF THE HISTORY OF ME. LIKE, WHEN I WAS YOUNG,
WHEN I WAS BAPTIZED, WHEN I GOT MARRIED. IT WAS ALL IN THIS PLACE.
SO THIS IS MY LIFE. JACK: SO YOU LIVE OUT THERE
BUT YOUR HEART BEATS IN HERE? MAHIR: MY HEART BEATS
IN THIS CHURCH AND IN THIS TOWN. (SOOTHING ACOUSTIC MUSIC) JACK: PEOPLE COME HERE
FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD BECAUSE THIS CHURCH MARKS
THE TRADITIONAL SITE OF THE BIRTHPLACE OF JESUS. THIS IS ONE OF THE OLDEST
CHURCHES IN THE WORLD. DEDICATED IN 339 A.D.
BY HELENA, THE MOTHER OF THE ROMAN
EMPEROR CONSTANTINE. (SOOTHING GUITAR MUSIC) JACK: IT’S SUCH
A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING. SUCH A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING. MAHIR: YOU FEEL THE HOLY SPIRIT. JACK: YOU DO. MAHIR: AND YOU
FEEL THE HISTORY AND THE CULTURE
WHEN YOU ENTER. FOR US, TO BE HERE,
FOR US, IT FEELS HOME, AND IT CONNECTS US
WITH OUR ANCESTORS, AND IT CONNECTS
US WITH CHRIST. JACK: THIS CHURCH
IS A SHARED SPACE. NOT ONLY DO TOURISTS VISIT, BUT THREE DENOMINATIONS
WORSHIP HERE: THE CATHOLIC, THE ARMENIAN, AND MAHIR’S GREEK
ORTHODOX COMMUNITY. THEY ALL USE THE SPACE AS A PLACE TO REMEMBER
THE SOLUTION GOD PROVIDED THROUGH HIS SON. (UPBEAT MUSIC) MAHIR: FOR ME, AS A
BETHLEMITE GREEK ORTHODOX, WE TRY TO FOLLOW TRADITIONS. THEY KEEP US
CLOSEST TO OUR ANCESTORS, AND THEY KEEP US
CLOSEST TO THE BIBLE. JACK: YEAH. (MUSIC) MAHIR: SO, YOU SEE
THESE STAIRS GOING DOWN? ALL THIS STONE FROM
THE SURROUNDING AREAS FROM BETHLEHEM. SO LET’S GO DOWN
TO THE CRADLE WHERE JESUS WAS PUT
AFTER HE WAS BORN. IF YOU TAKE A LOOK
AT WHAT WE’RE IN HERE, SEE, THIS IS ALL
NATURAL, OKAY? THIS IS ALL NATURAL. JACK: AND YOU KNOW,
MOST PEOPLE, WHEN THEY THINK ABOUT
THE BIRTHPLACE OF JESUS, I MEAN, A LOT OF US
HAVE WOODEN BARNS IN WHICH WE SET THAT SCENE. BUT THE BOOK DOESN’T REALLY
SAY IT WAS A WOODEN BARN, IT SIMPLY SAYS IT’S WHERE
THE ANIMALS WERE KEPT AND PEOPLE WHO WERE
LIVING IN BETHLEHEM IN THE FIRST CENTURY WOULD… I MEAN, WOOD WAS SO SCARCE THEY WOULDN’T EVEN DO MUCH
OF IT IN THEIR OWN HOMES, MUCH LESS IN AN
ANIMAL SHELTER, SO THEY USED NATURAL
FORMING CAVES LIKE THIS. THIS LIMESTONE
NATURALLY PERFORATES AND CREATES THESE OPENINGS. THIS WAS AN ANIMAL SHELTER. MAHIR: IT IS. THIS IS WHERE
THE ANIMALS ATE FROM, WHERE YOU PUT THE HAY AND
THE BARLEY FOR THE ANIMALS. (RELAXING MUSIC) JACK: IT’S STRIKING THAT
JESUS WAS PLACED IN A MANGER, A FEEDING TROUGH. THIS SAME JESUS, AT THE
LAST PASSOVER SUPPER HE SHARED WITH THE DISCIPLES, PASSED AROUND BREAD
AND WINE SAYING, “EAT. THIS IS MY BODY
BROKEN FOR YOU.” AND I’M GRATEFUL. I AM GRATEFUL FOR MAHIR, FOR HIS HEART AND PASSION, AND THOUGH I AM NOT
GREEK ORTHODOX, WE ARE STILL BROTHERS
AS FELLOW CHRIST FOLLOWERS. I’M GRATEFUL
HE’S INVITED ME INTO HIS CULTURE,
HIS TRADITION, AND SHARED THIS
RICH SPACE WITH ME. BETHLEHEM HAS ALWAYS
PROVIDED THE SOLUTION TO OUR DEEPEST NEED: THE BREAD OF LIFE
FOR THE WORLD. MAHIR: SO THIS IS THE PLACE
WHERE JESUS WAS BORN. THIS IS WHERE WE KNEEL DOWN AND THEN WE KISS THE STAR. AND THEN WE TAKE SOME
OF THE OIL FROM HERE, AND THEN WE PUT THE… JACK: AH, THE SIGN OF THE CROSS.
MAHIR: YES, EXACTLY. WE’RE CONNECTED
THROUGH THE BIBLE. AND YOU KNOW, WE HAVE
A SAYING IN HERE. “IF YOU DON’T HAVE HISTORY, “YOU WILL NOT HAVE A FUTURE.” AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT
WE’RE TRYING TO KEEP, OUR HISTORY, TRADITION, TO KEEP IT FOR THE FUTURE
GENERATIONS, AS WELL. JACK: THE LAND STILL SPEAKS. MAHIR: IT DOES. (UPLIFTING MUSIC) MAHIR: WE’RE GONNA
GO TO THE BELL TOWER TO SHOW YOU THE CITY
OF BETHLEHEM FROM UP TOP. JACK: I’M EXCITED FOR THAT. MAHIR: ALSO THE CHURCH. NOW, WHEN YOU EXIT THIS DOOR, YOU’LL HAVE A
DIFFERENT FEELING. JACK: OH, WOW, IT SURE DOES. IT JUST OPENS.
IT JUST FEELS LIKE I’M ENTERING
A VERY DIFFERENT SPACE. MAHIR: DEFINITELY. (MUSIC) MAHIR: WE’RE ALMOST
UP ON THE TOP WHERE WE USED TO
COME UP AS KIDS WITHOUT THE
PERMISSION OF ANYBODY. JACK: I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. MAHIR: JUST TO BE ON THAT SPOT. CAN YOU IMAGINE?
JACK: OH, MY GOSH. I CAN SEE YOU SNEAKING
AWAY FROM MOM AND DAD AND COMING UP HERE FOR THIS. MAHIR: NOT ONLY MOM AND DAD, ALSO THE PRIESTS. JACK: THE PRIESTS DIDN’T
CARE FOR IT EITHER. OH, THAT IS JUST AMAZING. MAHIR: SEE, THIS IS
THE OLD CITY OF BETHLEHEM. AND THIS IS THE
EASTERN PART OF THE CITY. AS YOU CAN SEE,
JERUSALEM IN THAT AREA, JUDEAN DESSERT
ON THE OTHER SIDE, AND THE SOUTHERN PART OF
THE CITY ON THAT SIDE. JACK: THAT’S AMAZING. YOU KNOW WHAT DREW MY
ATTENTION ALMOST IMMEDIATELY WAS THIS CHURCH
OF THE NATIVITY THAT CELEBRATES
THE BIRTH OF JESUS HAS HIS CRUCIFIXION
IN VIEW, RIGHT? I MEAN, LOOK AT THIS. IT’S SHAPED AS A
CRUCIFORM CHURCH. IT’S THE SHAPE OF A CROSS. IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT,
ISN’T IT, TO THINK THAT
THE BIRTH OF JESUS, AS AMAZING AS IT IS, IS INADEQUATE TO FIX MY
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FATHER. BUT IT’S THAT MOMENT
THERE THAT REALLY… THAT’S VERY POWERFUL
TO SEE THAT. MAHIR: IT IS. IT IS. JACK: TO SEE THAT FROM HERE. YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE STRIKES ME? I CAN SEE FROM JERUSALEM
THROUGH BETHLEHEM, ALL THE WAY DOWN THE
JUDEAN HILL COUNTRY TO HEBRON. THIS IS THE PLACE GOD SAYS, “MY SOLUTION.”
MAHIR: EXACTLY. JACK: WOW!
MAHIR: IT’S AMAZING. JACK: WHEN I READ IN MY BIBLE ABOUT BETHLEHEM, I’M REMINDED THAT
THIS PLACE PROVIDED WHAT I NEEDED MOST
FOR ETERNITY: A SAVIOR. EVERY STORY HERE
POINTS TO THIS PROVISION. I’M GRATEFUL FOR
THE SAVING LIFE OF CHRIST THAT ENABLES ME TO
LIVE BETTER THAN I AM. (UPLIFTING MUSIC)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *