A Cave of Quiet – Christmas 2013
I had always pictured the fields surrounding Bethlehem as something like Alberta cattle country, fields of lush grass where sheep contentedly munched their way through the day, and bedded down under the stars at night. On November 28th this year I got to experience the `shepherd’s field’ near Bethlehem. Now, I realize the vegetation may have changed somewhat, but any sheep or goat I saw in Palestine seemed to have a remarkable ability to eat the scrubbiest little plants on an otherwise barren and rocky soil.
What I found, at the end of a series of steps and walkways over old archeological `digs’ was a turn to the left, and another set of steps leading downward into … a cave! A natural sandstone cave welcomed my pilgrim feet as I stepped off the stone slabs onto the powdery, dusty floor. The space inside was about a third the size of the sanctuary at Sicamous United Church, and the roof of the cave was about 8 feet high, sloping down to two natural openings, just right, I imagined for herding a flock of sheep into. Lovely! Lovely and peaceful; quiet and restful. No busloads of tourists in matching T-shirts or toques following a yellow sign.
I sat down in the dust. “Here”, I thought. Here, a flock might be gathered for the night, safe from wind and rain, safe from predators of all kinds. Here too, might be a safe place to bear a child, to start a quiet revolution of love, to hear God speak to your weary hopeful heart. I cherished this rare quiet moment of shelter and possibility before jogging back to the bus to join my fellow pilgrims who, with me, still seek to follow the child born in obscurity.
In the busyness of this Advent – Christmas season I pray that you might stumble upon a sanctuary, a rare cave of shelter and quiet, where you might feel held in God’s embrace, and where God might step quietly and lovingly into your heart, and find a home there.
Rev. Juanita Austin