Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 346- A Split First

Today I split my "first" between two different things.  I took my family to the square in Andalusia to see "snow" and Christmas cottages and then we went to Harmony Baptist Church and experienced a walk through nativity village for my "first."

This year in our town there is a fake snow machine and some Christmas cottages on the city square.  They have set times when the snow machine blows fake snow on the city square. Today was one of those times. It was pretty cool.  It does look a lot like snow. It "melts" pretty quickly after it hits you so there is snowlike quality there as well. Laura thought it was awesome.  She loved it and thought it looked just like snow. It reminded her of playing in the snow as a little girl.  Hannah Grace said it was very cool but did not like it to collect on her hair. You can't have something messing with cool hair.  She also said it did not taste like real snow.  Joel said it was fun (a man of few words).  He enjoyed everything except when he lost his under armour jacket. He took it off and I guess we inadvertently dropped it somewhere.  Rats. 

After that, we drove out to Harmony Baptist and experienced the walk through nativity scene.  They had a Roman soldier on a horse as we walked up. He was very realistic looking and I am pretty sure he preaches really well, too. One of the first places we came to were the shepherds. We were actually there when the angels appeared to them. How cool is that?

Then, we followed Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. They had made a city gate entering into Bethlehem.  We were able to walk around the city.  We had to pay a tax which the church was gracious enough to give us the tax money when we arrived.  We saw Mary and Joseph knock on the door of the inn and hear a rude sounding inn keeper tell them there was no room.  We walked further and saw Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus (plus a live donkey) in the stable.  The shepherds were there worshipping. One accurate touch they added was that the next place was where the wise men were depicted.  Many nativity scenes have the wise men at the manger the night of Jesus' birth when they actually arrived sometime later.  The last place we visited was a campfire where the pastor did an excellent job of telling us the rest of the story- how Jesus lived, died, and rose again. He then explained how we could know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.  After that, they had refreshments for us inside.  Our family enjoyed this more than we anticipated.

I applaud any activity that can help us put ourselves into the actual events of the Bible by faith and imagination.  This might be reading the Bible while trying to visualize what the scene looks like, sounds like, feels like, and even smells like.  Sometimes movies or plays that are true to Scripture can help us do this. Tonight was a reminder that Jesus was not welcome in His world when He came the first time. It is heartbreaking to see that He still is not very welcome in the world that He made.

This reminded me of a story I read on the Internet (which is probably not true but makes a sweet point) about a twist on the innkeeper story.  Here's the story.

Wally was nine years old and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind, but well-liked by the other children in class, all of whom were smaller than he.

At times the boys did have trouble hiding their irritation when the uncoordinated Wally would ask to play ball with them. He would stand by, not sulking but hoping. Always a helpful boy, willing, and smiling, the natural protector of any child he felt was being mistreated.

As Christmas time approached, plans were made for the annual school pageant. Children were being assigned their parts: angels, shepherds, wise men, Mary, and Joseph. Wally stood by expectantly then suddenly his joy knew no bounds; for he heard the teacher say, "Wally, I want you to be the Innkeeper." (Not many lines to learn, she reasoned and his size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.) Little did that teacher dream the lesson that such a tender-hearted boy would teach to all who would attend that program.

Then came the rehearsals with the manger, beards, crowns, and a stage full of squeaky voices. Most caught up in the magic of the night was Wally. He would stand in the wings, watching the performance with fascination. His teacher had to make sure he did not wander on-stage before his cue.

Then came the long-awaited night and Wally stood holding a lantern by the door of the Inn, watching as the children who portrayed Mary and Joseph came near him.

"What do you want?" Wally asked with a brusque gesture.

"We seek lodging."

"Seek it elsewhere. The inn is filled."

"Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary."

"There is no room in this inn for you." Wally looked properly stern.

"Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired."

Now, for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause and the audience became a bit tense.

"No! Be gone!" the prompter whispered from the wing of the stage.

"No! Be gone!" Wally repeated automatically.

Joseph sadly placed his arms around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband's shoulder, and the two of them started to move away. The Innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however.

Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others.

"Don't go, Joseph," Wally called out. "Bring Mary back." And Wally's face grew into a bright smile. "You can have my room!"

A burst of laughter then silence, then tears flowed freely as the message came through to the listeners. Wally, the boy considered 'slow' had made room for Jesus. He could not turn Mary and Joseph away. God's only begotten Son would be welcomed by him! His tender heart had made room for the Saviour.

As Christmas approaches, I wonder how welcome Jesus is in my life?

Knowing there is no abundant life where Jesus is not welcome,

3 things I thank God for today
1. People who work hard and volunteer their time to help bring the message of Jesus to life
2. Fake snow and real joy
3. Angels

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