While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.—Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)
About 70 years after Jesus’ birth, the Roman army destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Early Christians faced persecution, even death, and had to worship in secret. But the Gospel continued to spread across the world. In A.D. 312, the Roman emperor Constantine accepted Christ as his Savior.
Constantine’s mother, Helena, went to the Holy Land in search of the places where Jesus walked, taught and performed miracles. One of those places was the cave where people believe Jesus was born. Helena ordered that a church be built at the site. The Church of the Nativity still stands today, the oldest continuously operating church in the world.
Inside, a large room with thick columns stretches toward a cave. Worn stone steps, cold to the touch, curve toward a single spot where a silver star is bolted to the floor. Those who visit often leave flowers under the gold lanterns hanging overhead. The smell of sheep and goats has been replaced by incense. And the cries of a baby have been replaced by the prayers of those who believe in the Savior and follow His ways.