Dome on the Rock

Monday 24th March

The posts from 20-28 March 2014 were originally posts formatted for Tumblr. Click here to see the original blog.

Well, today was the eve of the Annunciation so we went to Bethlehem after Hebron. The Church of the Nativity may be built upon the site pictured on many Christmas cards but it does not bear anything like their beauty. It is possibly true that the stable of Jesus’ birth was not beautiful either but it was undoubtedly simple. This church has neither beauty nor simplicity. It looks like the worst religious ornaments shop you could possibly imagine. Everything about it is chaotic and faded. The two images in the centre of this post above may just give you a flavour. The one on the left is the grotto with a star marking the spot where Jesus is thought to have been born, the one on the right is a picture of the nave from the iconostasis. Even so, there is undoubtedly something powerful that connected with my sense of faith when I spent a moment kneeling down in this little space.

The lowest of the pictures is of one of the Muslim participants in our Sharing Perspectives Course, Zahra Imame, trying to make sense of the grotto. This underground room was one full of questions for Christians and Muslims alike. Maybe in the long run that is no bad thing. The Church of the Nativity is no Christmas card but it does make you ask real questions.

The fourth of my pictures of Bethlehem posted at the top is of the town outside the church. This impoverished Palestinian place stands in stark contrast to a church too full of silver and gold and ancient art. I wonder what Jesus would have thought?

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Tim Stratford

Very Revd Dr Tim Stratford Dean of Chester

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