Pilgrimage

 Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem
Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Bethlehem is situated approximately five and a half miles west of Jerusalem. It is the place where Christians believe Jesus was born. The most important site in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square, which was built in the fourth century.

Inside the Church of the Nativity, there is a tiny area called the Grotto of the Nativity. In this grotto, there is a 14-pointed star, which is believed by some Christians to indicate the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Near to this spot is the Chapel of the Manger where some Christians believe Mary placed Jesus after he was born.

However, for many Christians these sites represent important places and events in the early life of Jesus, but there is doubt as to whether or not they are the actual places where these events happened.

Christian pilgrims travel to Bethlehem, particularly at Christmas time to attend services in the Church of the Nativity. Some pilgrims kiss the star representing the birthplace of Christ to show their devotion.

Nature and importance

Visiting Bethlehem enables Christians to share their faith with others from around the world. Many different Christian denominations are represented in Bethlehem, including both Western churches and Eastern churches, eg Greek and Armenian Orthodox Churches.

In Bethlehem, Christians can pray and focus their attention on the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the incarnation - the belief that Jesus is God made flesh. The experience of being in the place where the incarnation is believed to have happened can have huge spiritual importance for Christians.