by Terri Fox, Grant Writer
On a recent trip to Israel to participate in the L’Chaim 2018 International Pro-Life Conference, I had the opportunity to tour some historical biblical sites. We floated on the Dead Sea; sailed on the Sea of Galilee singing songs of praise; and saw the Dan stream that is fed by rain and snow from Mt. Hermon which feeds the Jordan River.
One of our stops was to the presumed site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.
Approaching the baptismal site, there are signs in different languages instructing one to respect the site and obey the listed rules. Two of the rules were unexpected and caught my attention:
- “You are traversing a military zone. Do not cross fences due to fear of landmines.”
- “The river is Israel’s border with the kingdom of Jordan – do not cross the river.”
Down the center of the river is a rope-like barrier that identifies the border between the two countries.
Two armed Israeli soldiers stood guard on the Israel side of the river and two armed Jordanian soldiers stood guard on the Jordanian side of the river. I thought about the great divide between them, even though the distance before them wasn’t that great.
Several of our group stepped into the waters of the Jordan for a full immersion baptism; some sprinkled water over their heads and on their arms, while others just stood in the water.
I walked the grounds, being mindful to stay behind the fencing, pondering the significance of this site. It was okay if I wasn’t standing in the exact spot where Jesus was baptized, but I was in the neighborhood.
Then I thought about the neighborhood: two countries, four armed soldiers, a rope, a fence, landmines dividing. In a place that brings Scripture to life I was fascinated by the contrast of reverence and rivalry.
As I sat down on a step to further reflect, I thought about Jesus’ birth in this land, how he walked this land, how he lived in community in this land, how he suffered and died in this land, and how he rose to new life defeating death.
I thought about how Jesus did this for the soldiers on both sides of the Jordan River.
And then I thought about what we face in our work in pregnancy help: two sides, lies used as weapons, a dividing line of choosing life over death.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s try to think about our neighbors. Let’s try to remember what brings us together. And let’s remember that Jesus was born to bring reconciliation to even those who oppose us.
Let’s not be afraid but share the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
Who knows, maybe someone will lay down their weapon, cross the barrier that divides and walk into great joy.