Last evening, my wife, mother-in-law and I went on quite a journey. It took us many hours of standing in the longest line I have ever seen in my life, but in due time we were able to embark on our journey to Bethlehem.
Starting with a powerful multimedia production in the worship center and then continuing on a long trail through the woods, we acted the part (along with about 4,000 others last night) of Jews going from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the Roman census. We encountered Roman guards, Publicans, Scribes, Priests, wise men and shepherds. We ended at the inn which had no rooms and were shown to the stable where Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were found.
Despite standing in line for nearly 3 hours in 40 degree weather and getting home at nearly midnight, the evening did a wonderful job of bringing the entire Christmas message to life. I was thrilled to see all the children (and there were MANY) totally engulfed in the event including the look of horror on their faces when the innkeeper said there were no rooms, not even for Joseph and Mary.
It took 800 church members volunteering many hours of time and effort to pull off this event which only runs on two Friday and Saturday nights in early December. It took a massive labor of love to produce an event that draws people from hundreds of miles, believer and unbeliever alike. Certainly God smiled last night as so many people heard the absolute truth regarding the birth of His Son and reason for His coming.
Many years ago I attended a passion play near Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. I remember being moved to tears and my 17 year old heart feeling closer to God than ever before in my life. A good passion play can (and should) do that. For a production that emphasizes only the birth of Jesus instead of His death to have a profound impact is truly awesome.
I have often wondered how it felt to be alive when Jesus was born. I have often wondered how the lowly shepherds felt as they were chosen by God to be among the first to see Jesus. I have often wondered how it felt to be among the first to hear that the Lord has come. I can honestly say that last night I got a very good taste of how all these things felt.
I truly pray that during this Advent season, each one of us is moved by what this time brings us into remembrance of. Whether Jesus was really born December 25 or not, the truth is that Jesus WAS born in Bethlehem and Emanuel did in reality come to fulfill the promises made in the Old Testament.
We can trust Jesus to come again and deliver us from this world for He came the first time and gave His life to save us from our sins. With all my heart I feel we are on our way to the new Bethlehem, so to speak. I believe the Lord Jesus is coming very soon and then we all can experience the joy and glory of His presence. Come Lord Jesus, please come SOON!!!
It sounds wonderful! There is nothing like the stage to bring something to life. Yes, we should remember what happened in Bethlehem year around but at the same time we must remember that God Himself would set aside feasts of remembrance. It is important to have those moments when we stop our day to day rush... and remember.
Some further information; The journey started in the worship center with singing etc. We were divided into families of 20 and we then took off into the darkness walking to Roman guard stations, to other family's fires, taxing stations, etc. In all, we must have walked close to mile up and down and through the woods, stopping at tents and campfires to hear things relating to the times or Christ's birth. All in all, it was a truly unique experience that far exceeded that of a play or production because we were just as much the actors as those who had lines to speak.