After arriving on Tuesday evening and digging Wednesday and Thursday, we had Friday and Saturday off. On Friday I worked on some reports for the dig and a short article that I promised Bible Study Magazine during the first week of January. I also did a bit of a workout in the fitness room and then ate too many desserts at the Christmas Eve dinner buffet. After dinner, I took our dig team to the eastern shore of the Dead Sea and shared with them the Christmas story.
As we looked to our east were the mountains where Balak king of Moab brought Balaam the prophet to view and curse the Israelites camped at – believe it or not – our Tall el-Hammam dig site. From those mountains, Balaam actually blessed the Israelites and announced this prophesy, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel…” (Nu 24:17). This message on these hills from an eastern prophet may have been the source of understanding that led the wisemen from the east to Jerusalem and eventually Bethlehem.
Then we looked west to the lights of Bethlehem on the hills across the sea and I shared my understanding of the Christmas story (can be seen at WEBSITE ADDRESS). It was a special time with a wonderful group of people.
Today, Christmas Day, we took a cab to Madaba, the leading Christian city in Jordan. We were planning to visit a church that dig photographer Mike Luddeni had once visited. We spent 30 minutes trying to find the church but it had moved and couldn’t be found anywhere. We spent another 30 minutes finding 2 other churches which were not open. We finally wound up as St George Greek Orthodox Church with the famous Madaba Map of the Holy Land. We all had a private prayer time there (in the midst of lots of others visiting and touring) and them did some Christmas (Day) shopping and a very pleasant, but different, Christmas dinner in a Madaba restaurant. Got back to the hotel and did another work out and am now heading back up to the hotel restaurant to eat a bunch more desserts.
But I also want to say that we heard on the news about the attacks and deaths in Christian communities and even at churches in Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria. Gayle, who was born of missionary parents in Jos, Nigeria, heard about the 5 attacks in that city and shouted, “Oh no, that’s my hometown.” We have been praying for a Christian brothers and sisters worldwide today and I hope you will, too. God is good all the time, but some days we just have to take it by faith. Exercise your faith on behalf of your brothers and sisters in the LORD worldwide, this Christmas season.
Pastor Gary Byers