I Love to Tell the Story

1,985.

That is the number of people who visited our church this weekend during our annual One Starry Night in Bethlehem. It took place over two nights — just five hours in all. Amazing!

This year, my husband and I took a break from our usual roles as the Bethlehem innkeepers who famously had no vacancy for Mary and Joseph. (We did make space for them in our stable though.)

On Friday night when the gates of Bethlehem opened, we quickly adapted to our new roles. I was seated in the scribe tent, helping each family seal their Christmas scroll. And the innkeeper became a tax collector. He questioned weary (and wary) travelers as they entered the city, collecting denarii from each family according to their means.

Taste and See

There is something incredibly special about taking part in this annual event. As you might expect, many of our visitors already know the Christmas story. But for some, it was the first time they learned about the birth of our Savior. And every visitor experiences the story in a new and unique way. They kneed the dough and taste the bread, smell the spices and grind them with a mortar and pestle. Later they will pet the animals, and the see the donkey in the stable beside Mary and Joseph, and the baby. Each person, young and old, visits Bethlehem and brings Jesus home in their heart.

For my part, I helped each family seal their scroll with sealing wax. They were told to take it home with them, and to carefully break the seal on Christmas morning. Together, they can once again recall their visit to Bethlehem as they read aloud the story of Jesus’ birth found in Luke Chapter 2.

After sealing their scrolls, I heard many families agree that they would indeed read the story before exchanging gifts. For one family, it was their fourth visit to Bethlehem, and they look forward to reading their scroll every Christmas morning. In addition to families with children, there were also young couples and seniors too, who came with scrolls. They asked to have them sealed so they, too, could read the story on Christmas morn. What a blessing!

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Although I’ve participated in One Starry Night for five years now, I have never had a scroll of my own. So before we packed up the scribe tent on Saturday night, I sealed one of the few remaining scrolls for myself.

The miracle of Jesus’ birth is a story that never gets old, no matter how many times it is told.

A Deliberate December

 

Thank Heavens for Bob Evans

How is it December already? There are still Thanksgiving leftovers in our refrigerator!

As in past years, it was a laid-back holiday, right up until the meal was served. The turkey was carved, and then there was the usual mad dash trying to get all the dishes onto the table while they were still hot. After years of serving cold mashed potatoes, Bob Evans made his inaugural appearance last Thanksgiving. Problem solved. He’s been a frequent dinner guest ever since.

Finally the candles were lit, the blessing was shared, and the long-awaited meal was before us. I looked around the table and my heart was full. My husband and children were beside me, and my brother was with us too. He stopped to visit Mom on his way to our house. Her absence was on our hearts, but we knew she was safe and warm and where she needed to be.

God has blessed my family in so many ways. His grace is sufficient for me.

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Advent Arrives

Today we begin the Season of Advent, in watchful anticipation of our Savior’s birth. Immanuel . . . God with us.

Each year I vow to slow down and be part of the season, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the stress of it all. That’s no easy task. Amen?

It’s a rainy First Sunday in Advent, and I am quietly sipping my coffee while admiring our Christmas tree. It has become a family tradition to decorate the tree after Thanksgiving dinner, simply because we’re all together. And knowing that my brother might be tempted to not have a Christmas tree this year, I drove to his house yesterday and we decorated together. As we unpacked his ornaments, we talked about past holidays, and happy childhood memories when life was simpler — and slower.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could slow down the month of December to a more leisurely pace? It would be fun to attend every tree lighting ceremony, Nutcracker performance and choral concert I could squeeze onto my calendar. I’d like to have several weeks to decorate my home too, instead of an hour here and there. And I would love to wrap my gifts long before the task becomes completely overwhelming.

“But,” I remind myself, “it’s only the First of December!” For a moment I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge when he realizes that he didn’t miss Christmas after all — there’s still time!   

After church today, I intentionally planned my afternoon to include a little shopping, a little decorating, and a few more leftovers. I have a new devotional to read and ponder each day during Advent, and at the end of the coming week, we will once again be participating in One Starry Night in Bethlehem at my church. Now in its fifth year, there truly is no better way to share the joy of Christmas!

How will you slow down and enjoy the coming week?  How will you celebrate this wonderful Season of Advent? I’d love to hear all about your plans!