It is called Bethany. It is near the Jordan River, on the border between Israel and Jordan. The area became a battleground and was forgotten. Then, twenty years ago, the government of Jordan began to recover it. Scientific teams dug and found ancient steps leading down to the river. On a nearby wall thousands of tiny crosses scratched in stone marked the many baptisms. Now people again go there for prayer and baptism. Hope is being reborn.
Holiday seasons are supposed to times of hope. More is involved than having time off to relax. Holidays, and especially Christmas, surface our deep dreams. We want to believe something better is possible. Yet, at this time of year, we buy, clean, and prepare in a frenzy. We believe that hope will surface if we do the right things.
The hope of the holiday season does not require us to do more. Holidays, especially Christmas, are times of grace. We are loved not for what we do, but for who we are. Christians believe that genuine love is simply given. Like Jesus being born, it is a gift that we can receive and share.
The ancient pilgrims who went to Bethany stepped out of their ordinary lives to find new and better life. They received the gift of hope. In our own day, the same is possible for us.
William L. Sachs