Images of Bethlehem: The Story of the Christ Child

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  • In the foothills of Judea that surround Bethlehem, shepherds still tend their flocks as in Biblical times.  The shepherd here is unusual: a woman. (Image: Dave Bartruff) In the foothills of Judea that surround Bethlehem, shepherds still tend their flocks as in Biblical times. The shepherd here is unusual: a woman. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A contemporary Bethlehem shepherd and his flock. Shepherds like him millennia ago were the first to be told by angels of “Good tidings of great joy in the birth of a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • An illuminated “Star of Bethlehem” atop one of many Christian churches in the town today. It was by a star that guided “Wise men from the East” to the birthplace of Jesus. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • Bilingual sign in Arabic and English marks the focal point of Bethlehem and its surrounding churches and chapels of many Christian denominations.  (Image: Dave Bartruff)  Bilingual sign in Arabic and English marks the focal point of Bethlehem and its surrounding churches and chapels of many Christian denominations. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • Tranquil Manger Square on a day other than Christmas Eve when tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world are drawn to Bethlehem, to celebrate the place of Christ’s birth. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • The Nativity Scene of Christ Jesus in stained glass located in the sanctuary of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A Franciscan father lights Christmas candles in St. Catherine’s Basilica on Manger Square. Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • “The Shining Silver Star of Bethlehem” illuminated by candles and surrounded by hanging incense sensors symbolically marks the place of Christ’s birth in a grotto chapel beneath the Church of the Nativity. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A cowled priest reads passages from the Bible in myriad tongues of the Christ’s birth in the grotto chapel of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • Another bi-lingual Bethlehem street sign marks Milk Grotto Street.   (Image: Dave Bartruff) Another bi-lingual Bethlehem street sign marks Milk Grotto Street. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • An ancient and elaborate pillar engraving on the Milk Grotto Chapel of the Holy Family and an angelic guardian. (Image: Dave Bartruff) An ancient and elaborate pillar engraving on the Milk Grotto Chapel of the Holy Family and an angelic guardian. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A Bethlehem bakery shop owner shows off freshly baked bread loaves. “Bethlehem” in Hebrew, means “House of Bread.” (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A typical Bethlehem lunch consists of bread, rolls, a salad and tea which also sustains pilgrim visitors like me. (Image: Dave Bartruff) A typical Bethlehem lunch consists of bread, rolls, a salad and tea which also sustains pilgrim visitors like me. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • An outdoor market is especially busy when fruits and vegetables first arrive in the morning. (Image: Dave Bartruff) An outdoor market is especially busy when fruits and vegetables first arrive in the morning. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A visiting Coptic Christian cleric from Egypt receives advice from a vegetable vendor in the open marketplace. (Image: Dave Bartruff) A visiting Coptic Christian cleric from Egypt receives advice from a vegetable vendor in the open marketplace. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A handcrafted Nativity scene carved of olive wood is an impressive introduction to a religious-themed crafts souvenir shop just off Manger Square. (Image: Dave Bartruff) A handcrafted Nativity scene carved of olive wood is an impressive introduction to a religious-themed crafts souvenir shop just off Manger Square. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • Friends share a handshake of brotherhood on Manger Square: an Islamic merchant and a Christian clergyman from Greece. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
Friends share a handshake of brotherhood on Manger Square: an Islamic merchant and a Christian clergyman from Greece. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A Palestinian elder gives a salute to a passing pilgrim.  He once served in the British Army when England occupied Palestine. (Image: Dave Bartruff) A Palestinian elder gives a salute to a passing pilgrim. He once served in the British Army when England occupied Palestine. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A Palestinian Christian believer reverently worships in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. (Image: Dave Bartruff)
  • A modern “Bethlehem Christmas Mother” This young Palestinian Christian mother with her newborn in her arms lights a worship candle in the grotto of the Church of the Nativity. A once-in-a lifetime serendipitous photo op! (Image: Dave Bartruff)

BETHLEHEM, December 12, 2012 – The story of Christmas is the story of Bethlehem, an ancient place, but today home to many.  Please enjoy these modern images and this timeless story: 

The Story of the Christ Child and Christmas

When Rome was a great Empire ruled by Caesar Augustus and Israel was governed by King Herod, in the village of Nazareth lived Joseph and Mary. Joseph was a carpenter and Mary was a young virgin who would become his wife. Mary told Joseph of a dream in which she was visited by an angel who told her she had been chosen to bear the Son of God and his name was to be Jesus.

One day the emperor sent notice that all persons were to register for a new tax. They were instructed to return to the towns of their birth. Joseph and Mary left Nazareth for Bethlehem. Mary who was with child, and close to the birth, rode on a donkey while Joseph walked beside her. They traveled for many days and only rested at night.

When they reached Bethlehem it was night. They looked for a place to rest but there were no empty rooms when they reached the inn. As they were being turned away Joseph mentioned his wife was with child and close to birth. The inn keeper took pity on them and told them of some caves in the nearby hills that shepherds would stay with their cows and sheep.

So Joseph and Mary went up into the hills and found the caves. In one cave was a stable room. Joseph cleaned it and made beds of fresh hay. He found a feeding trough which he cleaned and filled with hay to use as a crib. The next night Mary gave birth to a son and they named him Jesus, as the angel had said.

When the child was born a great star appeared over Bethlehem that could be seen for miles around. In the fields nearby shepherds were tending their flocks. An angel appeared to them surrounded by bright light. The shepherds were frightened and tried to run.

“Fear Not,” said the angel, “For I bring you tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day in Bethlehem - a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.”

“And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly the sky was filled with angels, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.”

After the angels departed the shepherds set out for Bethlehem. When they reached the cave they found the stable and inside was the child wrapped in swaddling clothes.

As the star shined over Bethlehem, in the east three kings would see it. They knew it was a sign and they set off to follow the star. There was Caspar - the young King of Tarsus, Melchior - a long bearded old man and leader of Arabia, and Balthazar - the king from Ethiopia. They traveled on camels for many days over the mountains, and through the deserts, and plains. Always following the bright star.

When they finally arrived in Bethlehem they found the child in the manger. The 3 kings bowed to their knees and offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They would stay the night in the cave and the next day returned to their lands to spread the news.

 


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Dave Bartruff

California-based Dave Bartruff is an award-winning photojournalist who has traveled to more than ninety countries.

Column Description: “Faraway places with strange-sounding names” is my middle name.  I’d like to introduce myself to you as often as I can.

 

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