But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. —1 PETER 2:9
Welcome to Bethlehem, where there truly is no room at the inn. Tourism to this land, the Holy Land, is on the increase. Around 75% of the tourists are Christian pilgrims who come to visit the Holy Land. Indeed, a pilgrimage to the places where Jesus, the Bright Star of Bethlehem, lived, died, and rose is a transforming experience that makes one read and understand the Bible in a new way.
However, by visiting only the ancient stones and touring mainly archaeological sites, tourists miss out on encountering the "living stones" where Jesus is dwelling today. Being a Palestinian Christian who was born just a few meters away from the Church of the Nativity, I often watched tourists flocking to the narrow and low gate that marks the entrance to the Church. Less than 20 minutes later, I would see them coming out, running into the bus and hurrying on to their next destination. The Holy Land seems similar to a Christian Disneyland, tourists standing in long lines to visit many sites and ancient churches, and pilgrims running where Jesus walked. They are not seeing the Light.
It is a moving experience for pilgrims to walk the Via Dolorosa, carrying a wooden cross on their backs. Still, it is even more meaningful to hear firsthand stories, genuine testimonies and personal narratives by local Christians. What makes the land holy are not the stones, but the people, and the Light that shines through them because of Jesus.
Jesus, Star of Creation, we thank you for making us holy by your birth, death and resurrection. Help us to be people of light because you are the Bright Star of Bethlehem. Amen.
(from The Bright Star of Bethlehem: Devotions for Advent)