The Presence of God
By Gary S. Eller
One of the strangest patches of ground on earth is the small area where, according to tradition, a cave once stabled animals. There Mary gave birth to Jesus. The preaching of Jesus, the babe born in that cave, would later cause the Roman authorities to execute him on charges of treason. The possible place where Jesus was born in Bethlehem (“house of peace”) is also the spot where centuries of Christians have worshipped.
Many additions have been built over that spot of land. If you go to Bethlehem or find a photo on the internet, you can’t see the church. That’s because there are so many monasteries built around it that they block your view.
At the site of the cave, is a grotto (from Latin, “crypt – a place for burial”) now owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. It is called the Church of the Nativity. It is a basilica, which meant that, in ancient Rome, the building could be used as an assembly hall as well as a place of worship.
The floors are black stone or cracked marble. Heavy tapestries hang from old stone walls. Oil lamps light the way through the dark passages. If you go up into the tiny domed upper chamber, then you might hear a choir singing Christmas carols!
At the bottom of the grotto, you find a 14-pointed silver star. This is the X that marks the spot. The round edged star marks the place where tradition says Jesus was born.
The Incarnation of Jesus tells us that God has come among us. We are not alone and isolated in the dark, riding a big rock through the sky. The Lord is near and this is our salvation.