The Angel’s Song: An Unadorned Cave | By Steve Pressley
Week 4, Day 26 | December 24
That’s what our former pastor Dr. W. Randall Lolley always required when he conducted groups to the little town of Bethlehem: an unadorned cave. That is because the location traditionally venerated as the place of our Lord’s nativity is indeed “adorned.” Known as the Birth Grotto, it lies beneath the altar of a Fourth Century church. You get there by descending well-worn steps, and what you see are the trappings of Orthodox church tradition: silver stars and candelabra, colorful silk tapestries draping the stone manger, and the smells ‘n bells associated with incense-laced liturgical worship.
The sensory nature of that traditional site reminds one of our conventional way of celebrating Christmas, with color and clamor and glitter and glow. But that would not have been the way it was. Apart from the heavenly display of angels “praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” the only spectacle witnessed by the shepherds was the unspectacular sight of a young woman, her husband, and a swaddled infant silently sleeping in a straw-laden feeding trough.
And that was the reason why Dr. Lolley wanted his fellow pilgrims to experience some other location, an “unadorned cave,” among the several possible places where Jesus might have come down to earth. There, with nothing to look at besides stone walls, floors and ceilings, he would read from Luke’s Gospel the passage which explained why the shepherds—in the absence of adornments—nevertheless experienced awe and wonder: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
PRAYER: Lord, lead us this Christmas Eve past the sights and sounds and smells,
to the heart of the celebration: “which is Christ the Lord.” Amen.
Steve Pressley is completing his 23rd year as Associate Pastor. During his tenure he has studied in Jerusalem and visited Bethlehem on four occasions.