I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but traveling in Israel didn’t quite match the pictures burned in my brain.

With due deference to My Bible Friends and all those Christmas and Easter cards, it ‘just ain’t like that’!

The valley of Megiddo eerily resembles the landscape along I-29 between Nebraska City and Rockport, the Promised Land looks like a monochromatic desert wasteland, and Bethlehem is a bustling metropolis. There was a bevy of rafters floating the Jordan River and a bus station commanded the base of Golgotha.

People hurried everywhere inside the walls of Old Jerusalem. Shopkeepers tried to lure unsuspecting tourists (that would be me) into the doorways of their tiny establishments (did I have ‘sucker’ tattooed on my forehead?). Families herded small children along the narrow cobblestone streets dead-ending in private residences. Rabbis in black robes and hats strolled along, deep in conversation.

Seaside swimmers floated in saline so strong it seared the slightest scratch. Mango groves and date palms flourished on hillsides of ancient ruins. A crippled man sat outside Lazarus’ tomb hawking cheap bookmarks with pictures of local sites.

It was all so ordinary.

Where was the microphone? The stage? The sign pointing to the birthplace of Jesus on a silent night? Where was the donkey that carried the King? The palm branches and singing? Why was the Via Dolerosa such a tiny sign on a busy street of merchants and hawkers?

If one of those shopkeepers had called out, “Follow me”, would I? If I’d heard there were rafters baptizing at the Jordan, would I have taken the plunge? If a rabbi invited me to bring my children for him to bless, would it have mattered?

What would go through my mind if someone strolled by and told the crippled man to get up and walk? If Pastor Harold gave my Sabbath School teacher a tongue-lashing for plucking a mango on Sabbath? If College View Church was burned and a mosque built on the site?

There in the land of Israel, I met His family. I rubbed shoulders with His people. In the ordinariness of Israel and Jerusalem, I saw reflected Lincoln and Denver and San Francisco. In the dirt and rocks and sand I saw Seward and Chattanooga and Keene. He was there…and here. In all our towns, in all our churches.

He came incarnate to awaken our memory of God dwelling among us, within us. His smile reflected in our oceans, His love emblazoned in every water drop rainbow. His footprints on every sandy beach, His finger inscribing history complete. He is our heartbeat and our message.

In the ordinary lay of our land, in the random connections of the day, in the dysfunctions of our families and the blundering mess-ups of our churches, He moves among us.

Painting a new picture of an old memory.
The Sacred all wrapped in ordinary,
glorious because of His presence.

One of us.
One with us.

Ann Halim, editor, eWeekend newsletter from the College View Adventist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Republished with permission.