The group checked out of the Nazareth hotel after an early Sabbath breakfast for some, and we departed at 8:00am for the extended bus ride to Jericho from Nazareth. We arrived at the ancient site of the excavations at Jericho, and we climbed up to the top of the Tel where Rimon gave us the historical perspective of the area, from ancient times to the most recent excavations at this most ancient city.
We arrived at the border between Palestine and Jordan, and walked down to the Jordan River to the baptism site. There we conducted a renewal of Baptismal vows service, having been reminded that this is the place where both the people of Israel crossed over the Jordan — having made the decision to go to Jericho, as well as the point of where Jesus made his decision to accept his mission and be baptized by John the Baptizer. At the conclusion of our service, we were sprinkled with water from the Jordan, and sang “We are God’s Work of Art.” After a group photo, we concluded with our sung version of “Wade in the Water,” and then moved on towards Bethlehem.
After a wonderful sandwich lunch at a local Christian restaurant in Bethlehem, we visited a Christian religious goods and souvenir shop before proceeding on to Shepherd’s Field. There, in a cave chapel near the location where the shepherds lived who heard the voice of the angel calling them to follow the star to the manger, we celebrated a Christmas Eucharist. It didn’t take long for everyone to get into the Christmas mood as we sang the appropriate Christmas hymns that mentioned the shepherds. Fr. Marty had purchased a wooden chalice and paten to commemorate this pilgrimage, and we used it for the first time at this Eucharist, which included an extended peace while we waited for Ramon to save the day by hunting down some Eucharistic bread from the nearby Franciscan monk.
We then proceeded to the Church of the Nativity, where we visited the site of Jesus’ birth. The church is currently under renovation, so there is a lot of scaffolding up in the nave and transepts of the church.
Before the church closed for the day, we were able to see the ancient surviving mosaic floor that has been uncovered beneath the nave of the current church. The designs in the tiles are amazingly Celtic.On our way to the hotel, we stopped at a local Bethlehem restaurant run by a Christian family for a delicious dinner with salads and grilled meats.We then proceeded back past the Palestine border guards to Jerusalem, where we checked in to the Leonardo Hotel. Most went to bed after the rooms had been sorted out in preparation for our visit to St. George’s Anglican Cathedral tomorrow for the Sunday services and lunch.
We will attempt to Skype with the congregation during the 9:30am service announcements tomorrow, depending on the Wi-Fi reliability. It will be around 10:10am Florida time, which will be 5:10pm in Jerusalem.
And now in closing, here is proof of our camel riders for the doubters back home: