"I have to go to the bathroom." I told our guide while waiting in a long and wide line funneling into the place where Jesus was purported to have been born.
"Why now?" I thought to myself. It was going to be another hour of waiting, possibly. Guides come in handy, because he lifted up the line retaining the crowds and escorted me to the bathroom and back in place again. I wasn't alone. Another woman thankfully tagged along.
There were alot of human needs in that line. We needed cool air, and some were thirsty and tired. Many thought they were on a tight schedule. We were packed into a sea of humanity, all wanting to see the birthplace of the one who changed all of history and the future - the King of Kings.
The closer we got, the more we were jostled and pushed. Chip, our leader, could see above the crowd.
"The line is not moving," he said, with his calm smile. His quiet spirit helped.
My feelings? I was hot, frustrated, and angry. I felt that people in the front were taking too much time and we all wanted a bite of time at that special place. At that point, I was wanting to forget the whole thing and be by myself. I gave my bus buddies an diversion for just a moment and asked them to smile and snapped their picture. See the photo below. (We tried to look our best.)
I believe that God called me in those moments to "soak" in the crowds and remember the crowds that surrounded Jesus. Human? Yes. Full of human needs. Seeking what he could give. We all seek something meaningful. Still. We are tainted. We get on each other's nerves.
"He's not here," I heard someone say from the crowded line. Then I started meditating on that. It was a good reminder. We don't find Jesus in his birthplace. There is nothing magical about it. It was a place in time. Going to it and remembering it was special for all of us.
Let me describe the place a little more in detail. To get to his birthplace, we lined up along the side of an ornate Byzantine basilica called the Church of the Nativity. It was built sometime between 333-339 and was destroyed by fire during the Samaritan revolts of the 6th century, and a new basilica was built in 565 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It is sparkling with art ancient art work, arched windows, hanging lights, pictures and statues of Madonna and child, tall columns and high ceilings. Underneath is where they say Jesus was born. There was no church building then, of course, and since years have passed since his birth, you have to go down some stairs into that "layer of time".
When we finally got to "the place", we each had opportunity to kneel down and experience a quick moment of remembrance.
"Thank you, God for coming as a baby," I spoke as I knelt and hurried on. We moved on, knowing of the crowds upstairs. The place was remembered by a small structure that looked like a fireplace.
I was glad to be there and will always remember all aspects of that place - the conflicts, the discomfort, and God coming to earth to be born in our hearts!