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.

One Starry Night

Oh, my, it has been a busy week! I began my “joyful journal” on Monday and kept adding to it almost every day. Had I not been looking carefully, I might have missed some of the more simple joys of the season, such as seeing the Downy Woodpecker at our suet feeder, or the colorful twinkling lights on our street.

Heartwarming joys mid-week included delivering Christmas gifts to a homeless outreach program, and providing clothing for a young boy in need. There is no greater joy in this season of giving than helping others who are struggling through difficult times.

A very special joy came this weekend, as we participated in “One Starry Night in Bethlehem”. Now in its fourth year, this event has become an annual tradition — not only for our church — but also for many families in our community. For two nights, our church is transformed into the town of Bethlehem, as we imagine it might have appeared on the night of Jesus’ birth.

I was particularly excited last evening because our daughter joined us for the first time. She played the role of a potter named Leah, demonstrating how to fashion small bowls from clay.

My husband and I look forward to sharing the Christmas story with our visitors each year. Yes, we are the innkeepers — the ones who turned Mary and Joseph away because our inn was full to capacity. We tell the children how we led the couple to our stable, and there Mary gave birth to a son. She wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in the manger, right beside the animals.

The children love hearing the story, and they sit wide-eyed as my husband shares how the shepherds followed the star and came searching for the newborn King. Later in the evening, the families will visit with Mary and Joseph in the stable, and see baby Jesus before leaving Bethlehem. It is wonderful that we are able to tell the Christmas story in a way that brings it to life!

Isn’t it amazing how one starry night brought such joy into the world, and continues to shine in our hearts today?