Friday, December 21, 2012

I am back

Some friends wanted me to get back to doing my blog. So I am finally writing on here again. I really do need some new pictures of my kiddos. I will try to get one on Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, the images that go with it have changed for me so much over the years. I have read the Bible cover to cover many times. (yep even the boring parts, I will admit that a few of the times I kind of speed read through the genealogy lists and stuff) I seem to find something new every time. Maybe it's just that different things jump out at me at different stages of my life. As a teen I was fascinated by the soap opera that is much of the Old Testament. The idea that these people that God used were far from perfect. Of course as I read some things I didn't quite understand. So I started reading commentaries, and reading things about the lifestyles of people back then, the culture, the political climate, and just how things were done. It was fascinating. I also began looking up the original Greek or Hebrew words on some things and realizing that some words could mean more than one thing and if the translator had chosen a different meaning for that word the entire meaning would change. Yeah, I am a nerd, but I think it's interesting. The Christmas story is one that evolved for me over the years. I have always thought about how tough things must have been for Mary. She lived in a small town and anyone who has ever lived in one knows that gossip in a small town is a big issue. So if an unmarried girl gets pregnant (which probably happened from time to time) gossip will spread. If her husband then tries to quietly end the betrothal (no such thing as secrets in a small town, especially when entire families tended to live in one room with grandparents in the next room and cousins and aunts and uncles in the room on the other side) More gossip, add in the girl claiming it was God and well, you get the picture. I figure the gossip and mean girls are probably at least part of why she went off to visit her cousin for a while. We all know an angel changed Joseph's mind and the engagement was back on, but he had to wait a while to consummate. When I was a kid we had this manger scene we set up every year. The little wood stable and the wood cradle for the baby with clean hay and blankets. Then I got older and read more and realized they didn't have a lot of wood. I went to Israel and saw that for myself, there are way more rocks than trees. I love the olive trees and I bought several little things made of Olive wood, but the trees grow all crazy and crooked, not straight up, and they grow differently than other trees, so they are often hollow. (even healthy olive trees can be hollow) so this means that while Olive wood is great for small carvings (it has a beautiful grain) it's not much good for building. However the land is filled with caves. They are everywhere. The mangers (feeding troughs for animals) are stone not wood and animals are often kept in caves. Sometimes with the family. Some people still live in caves over there. Lots of people now build their homes over caves and they can use the caves to keep animals and then have the house upstairs. OK so that changed the whole picture. Luckily I can handle the change (OK sometimes reluctantly, I still often see the traditional image in my head) Then I read and learn more and realize a few other things. One cool thing is that possibly they could see the Herodian, which was this huge beautiful castle thing, from their cave. It had to have bugged Mary and Joseph a little to know that God said this child was a King, yet the current king, who was not a nice guy, (but gotta give him credit, he was an amazing builder!) has not one but several fancy homes. Mostly on hills. (the guy was a little paranoid, but in his case probably justified, his own people didn't like him because he was a collaborator for the people who had invaded the country and his bloodline meant he should not really have been king, plus his morals were a little bit, um, loose) OK all these changes in my views. Gee whiz, I thought I knew the story. Of course then I look up a few words in the original Greek. Hmmm, the word they use for Inn, actually means guest room. Thinking more (dangerous I know) and I realize that the whole reason they were going to Bethlehem is cause Joseph's family was from there. Ok so why didn't they stay with relatives, after all hotels were not a big business back then, people usually camped out unless they were rich. I don't think Joseph and Mary were rich. Though maybe they were not too poor since they did have a donkey, doesn't seem like much to us, but most people walked, so yeah it was a luxury. Now, I am thinking (nope can't prove it, it's just my opinion) that maybe they did stay with relatives. However the house would have been full to brimming with relatives. Plus giving birth is a very, messy thing. You are not going to want to do that in a room full of relatives. (well OK some people do now and they also video tape it and put it on youtube, but not me!) So a couple of things occur to me, if she shows up at this relatives house in labor she is not about to want to climb the ladder to get up to the family living quarters, I know I didn't want to climb any ladders when I was in labor! Plus the ladies of the house probably did not want all that mess up there and there were men around. Now men are in the delivery room, but that's a pretty new thing. Ask your grandparents. Back in that Culture it was actually pretty much taboo for a man to witness the birth. He could not even touch his wife until she stopped bleeding. No man could, she was "unclean". (for you young people it can take like six weeks to stop bleeding after a baby). They didn't have any super thin maxi pads back then either. So better to keep the mess on the straw. It makes me feel better to know that Jesus was probably surrounded by loving relatives, which is as it should be. Babies should be spoiled. I know now from my research that it's actually essential for an infant's development for a child to be held and talked to and rocked and stuff. They can die without that attention even if they are fed. They can have real brain damage that shows up on scans if they don't get that. Of course the relatives all thought he was just a baby. Can you imagine their reaction when those shepherds showed up? I can imagine some older woman trying to stop them from going in. "You are not going in there, you have dirty hands and this is her first baby you are going to scare her!", Bethlehem is still not that big. So likely the lady of the house knew these shepherds. They would have been local people, probably kids. (Oh and it was probably spring, not winter, look it up if you don't believe me, there is a long story to why we celebrate Christmas when we do) Maybe it's just me, but I like to picture in my head what things were like, and what the people were feeling and thinking. It's a hobby of mine. Going to Bethlehem and all those places really helped with my picturing it. If I can find them I will share some of the pictures we took with you. (in case you are wondering my husband took most of them and he doesn't take pictures with people in them very much, He says he knows what I look like so took very few with me in them,LOL)
This is a cave in Bethlehem (not the official one, the "official" one had a church stuck on top of it and the walls are all covered with cloths and there is bling everywhere. It doesn't look like a cave at all anymore) You can see a manger in front of this one.
I think this was another manger
Inside the cave from above. The pillar was added for safety later. In one area you could see the ceiling was black from hundreds of fires built over the years to cook, or keep warm or keep away predators.
See what I mean about caves being everywhere? These are probably tombs and our guide said there probably used to be a trail leading to them but since the trail was on a cliff it has eroded away. He as not amused when my husband and I discussed the possibilities of using catapults to get the coffins into the those tombs. Yeah, we have sick senses of humor, probably whey we are a good couple.
This is an Olive tree. See what I mean about it not being useful for building big things?