For generations pilgrims have looked to the pastures east of Bethlehem to find the location of the Shepherds’ Field, where the first people on earth received the good news of the birth of Christ. Since no one location is universally accepted, various sites carry the title.
Many churches have been built in the area – one mosaic floor from Byzantine times can be seen in the Shepherds’ Field church in the village of Beit Shahour.
In the grounds of the Franciscan Chapel excavations have revealed the ruins of an agrarian monastic center, with cisterns, silos and presses. Inhabited as far back as Herodian times, it had its heyday around the 6th century. The first church built here dates from the 4th or 5th century, and inscriptions upon the remains of two altars prove the enduring nature of the site’s sacred character.
*And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Jesus Christ the Lord. … And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:8-14
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