- First name: Melema'u
- Last name: Molitika
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- Town: Christchurch
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the shepherds' grotto
welcome to the shepherd's field in Bethelham...
We sang a Tongan hymn inside the shepherds’ grotto. The cave is low, with black roof and it’s dark inside with limited lighting. There’s a nativity display at one end and a communion table at the other.
As we drove into Bethlehem from Jerusalem where we stayed, I noticed the change in landscape. There is a sign of limited resources, and poverty is noticeable. The state of housings are not great, and there’s a sense of sadness within the place in general, and it seems to show on people’s faces.
Our tour guide Joseph shared how this Palestinian area is under siege within the wall that divides them from Jerusalem. There’s lack of employment except for tourists and related activities. They don’t have the privilege of moving freely between the border as the Israelis have. Families are divided by the wall, and many of those on the Bethlehem side are leaving the country altogether.
I was interested in listening to Joseph’s story because not often that we hear of the Palestinian side of the story, and the struggle they’re going through. Most often we only hear about Israel’s version, and forget that there’s always two sides to the story.
church @ shepherds' field
Above the cave and to the side, is a modern church (1954) shaped like a tent and decorated with a bronze angel. There is a good view out over the wilderness, and there aren’t any green pastures! That’s a good indication that the life of the shepherds weren’t easy. They were exposed to the elements and the terrains were harsh.
The question that came to mind was why the shepherds? Why were the angels revealed to them in the night, the birth of Jesus? Could that be a metaphor for Jesus the Good Shepherd looking after us, his flock – who left the hundred in the field, and went in search of the missing one? And what is my role in that story, as I’m about to join the shepherds in the field?
I’m looking forward with anticipation to what the future holds for me in my new parish. At the same time, I’m well aware of my new responsibility as a shepherd in training! It is my intention to stay close to the Good Shepherd, and let him be my constant companion.
listen & enjoy!
the Church of the Nativity
Since this was a Sunday, we had to wait for morning services to be finished at the Church of the Nativity. The three churches that have jurisdiction here are the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Armenian. This is a beautiful church building of old, using cedars from Lebanon, as oppose to the modern church at the Shepherds’ field.
the grotto of the nativity inside the church
There were lots of people at the church when we were there. We queued for an hour to get to the grotto. Once we got to the entrance inside the church, we entered through a narrow doorway and descended through narrow steps to reach the grotto.
What does the birth of Jesus mean for me? A new baby, a new life – a baby with a mission, and that mission is to give me life. Is there a room in the grotto in me for newness? I’m always amazed at how the smallest person on earth (baby) has the mana of bringing a lot of people together. That’s what happens in family situation, when a new baby is born, the whole family, near and far come together and rejoice. Just as baby Jesus brought the wise men from afar, and the shepherds from the fields.
I felt blessed to be at the Church of the Nativity, and witnessed the place where Jesus was born. Whether that’s the exact place or not, the main thing for me is the meaning of the birth, and what it means for me. Having the opportunity to contemplate on the birth on site, means a lot to me, and I’m ever so thankful to Trinity College for the opportunity.