Friday, June 28, 2013 | By: Jake

Wait...This is It?

Back in March for my Spring Break, I went on a pilgrimage with Notre Dame's Campus Ministry. Below is the continued reflection of my journey:

Entrance to the Church of the Nativity
Upon entering into the Church of the Nativity, the believed site of the birth of Christ,  I thought back to February of 2012, when I first heard of Notre Dame Campus Ministry's pilgrimage to the Holy Land...

I remember seeing "Church of the Nativity" as one of the locations that students would be traveling to and quickly searched the Internet to learn more. 

"They actually know the spot where it happened?" I remember thinking. I mean, I knew there was a spot where it happened, but the fact that the location was known? That there was a spot where millions of pilgrims went to every year to observe that event? Looking back, it seems kind of stupid to think that there wouldn't be a place marking Christ's birth, but at the time, it just seemed so surreal...lie we're talking about Christ...we're talking about God.

And now, here I was, walking through the door to the Church of the Nativity, the place where God became man. 

Surely, I was going to have a moment here.

Inside the Church of the Nativity from the Back
Church of the Nativity from the Front
Wait...this is it?

It's not that I was expecting the Buckingham Palace or anything, but the place just seemed so bare, so empty...but emptiness paired with peace. While my eyes saw nothing of importance, there was no doubt that something important was here.

We walked over to the back part of the church where we had group prayer. Surrounding a circular table, we all read the Pilgrim's Prayer. I noticed people walking by and just staring us, and realizing that they probably didn't speak English, we probably looked like we were doing some witchcraft over the table or something.

The front of the church was a bit more decorative, where the altar was. We walked towards it and noticed a line along the front right of the church. It wasn't too bad, about a 15 minute wait, which I thought was pretty good. However, as we got closer and I could see down the stairs (the altar was built over the believed site of Christ's birth), I quickly realized that the line was going fast because pilgrims only had 5-10 seconds at the site.

The altar above the place of Christ's birth
I walked down the stairs, only three people ahead of me, and realized that in less than a minute I would be directly on that spot. I tried to "prepare" for my moment, telling myself that this was huge. This was where it all started!

And then the moment came...I knelt down, said a short prayer, and got up...all in about 15 seconds.

The Hole in the Center where you can touch where Christ was born
Well...that was...different than I thought it would be.

I was expecting to break down crying, and instead I was just confused. I just wasn't feeling anything. Well, if I'm not having any emotional response, surely no one else is, I remember thinking as I walked back up the steps...running right into my friend, Anastasia, who told me with watery eyes, "Jake, this is the place. Like this is the place where God was in the flesh." You could say that I was a bit jealous of her...

God, why aren't you letting me have my moment?

But then I began thinking...why did God have such a generic site? I mean, if God wanted to, he could have chosen a site that would be known for thousands of years to come, but instead, he just chose random cave. (Side note: we learned Christ was actually born in a cave....not a stable. Sorry to ruin your nativity scenes.) This was the place where Emmanuel was born, where God was with us. But now that Christ has resurrected, he isn't with us more here than he is back in the US. He's everywhere.

Although we revere this location as the birth of Christ, so that we have a place to remember, we shouldn't respect this location anymore than any other location. We shouldn't be holy just in a church...we should be holy everywhere we go. If I would feel odd cussing in a place like the Church of the Nativity, maybe I should question why I don't feel odd cussing anywhere else.

Steven Furtick, one of my favorite pastors, recently said "Don't let your expectations affect what God wants you to experience." 

I don't think that applies anywhere more than here. If I would have had my "moment" at the a church of the Nativity, I wouldn't have been able to focus on this greater truth:

I need to act the same everywhere as I would here.


Post a Comment