The Nativity Grotto in Bethlehem
November 24, 2022
Merry Christmas from the Holy Land!
It feels weird to be celebrating Christmas even before Thanksgiving, but throughout our pilgrimage, we will celebrate Mass according to the location rather than according to the date on the calendar. It is said that “in Bethlehem, every day is Christmas.” I have never sung Christmas hymns so early in November, but when you are standing in the grotto of the Nativity, you almost can’t help it. Reading the account of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2:1-20 just feet away from the star that marks the actual spot where it happened reminds us of the reality of our faith and the historical truth of the mystery of the Incarnation.
In many ways, it feels appropriate to start our pilgrimage in the town where Jesus started His own pilgrimage of life on earth. To literally follow in the footsteps of Jesus is a great blessing which expresses our personal conviction to growing as His disciples. Bethlehem teaches us the importance of humility, the gift of human life, and the beauty of being a Christian. The only words I could utter when touching the spot of His birth were, “Thank you, Jesus.”
I particularly like the last verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.
While we are physically visiting all the holy sites here, we are seeking to grow interiorly in our relationship with Christ. Seeing where He was born, we pray that He may be born in our own hearts. Witnessing the spot where the “light came into the world” (John 3:19), we pray that He may shine through us to be a light for others. Walking in the town where He came to be with us, we pray that we may always be with Him. Simply staying in the place where He came to be like us, we pray that we may grow to be more like Him.
By Jared Kleinwachter
Archdiocese of Atlanta