One of the most memorable Christmastimes for our family was our visit to the Holy Land in 1993. At Shepherd's Field, located about three miles northeast of Bethlehem, we had a wonderful view looking across a rocky valley back at the Savior's birthplace. There, a Bedouin shepherd with his flock of dark brown-faced and long-eared sheep appeared over the hill and began guiding his flock in our direction. It was quite a moment for all of us as we witnessed a scene that has been repeated over and over for many millennia.
For eight days, we walked where Jesus walked. We read the appropriate scriptures at each stopping place as we followed His life, His ministry, and His marvelous miracles. As we stood together on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, it was easy to imagine the Savior beckoning to two rough-hewn fishermen to "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." As we sat together on the Mount of Beatitudes and read the powerful language of the Sermon on the Mount, we could almost hear the Master Teacher's voice echoing across the grassy slope. We gained a greater appreciation for the reality of His life, His mission, His atonement, His crucifixion and resurrection.
Never to be forgotten was the experience of standing with our seven children and their companions in the Upper Room where, according to tradition, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and where they celebrated the sacrament under His guidance and direction. There I had the privilege of reading the 17th chapter of John to the family. This was a most inspirational and precious moment to read the blessing the Savior pronounced upon His twelve and ultimately upon all those who would believe and follow His teachings and commandments.
Anyone who visits the Holy Land never forgets the moment in the Garden of Gethsemane reading from the scriptures the great price that the Savior paid for all those who come unto Him, repent of their sins, and receive all of the blessings that Heavenly Father has for the righteous — all by and through the Atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. In a deep spirit of reverence and awe we stood together and felt the spirit of the Garden tomb and had confirmed in each of our hearts the reality of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As a family, we joined together in the Jerusalem Center. We sat in the auditorium looking out over the lights of the old city sparkling against the night sky and sang Christmas carols. Sister Judy Parker accompanied us so beautifully on the organ. She and her husband, Tom, lived in our ward and were serving a full-time mission there. Each member of the family wiped away a tear or two as we celebrated Christmastime together looking out over the old city of Jerusalem.
It was a marvelous experience, and I rejoiced at the opportunity to share the sights, sounds and feelings of the Holy Land with my family. My wife, Barbara, put it all in perspective with her oft-repeated reminder:
"Remember," she would say, "it isn't as important to walk where Jesus walked as it is to walk the way He walked."