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!
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!
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.