Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bethlehem Revisited 2014

Ever since we discovered this amazing event during the Christmas season of 2005, our family has made an {almost} annual journey to "Bethlehem."
Last year, we had a paralyzing ice storm that caused nearly every outdoor event during the first week of December in North Texas to be cancelled, so we missed last year.
We couldn't WAIT to go back this year.
Because we've been so much, and they have "Bethlehem" set-up nearly the same way every year, we know exactly what we want to see and all the short-cuts to get to those spots.
This year it worked best for our schedule to go during the second weekend of the month.
Volunteers in a quaint small town not far from us transform some land behind a large church into what you might imagine Bethlehem might have looked like thousands of years ago.
You can watch actors in period costume play the part of King Herod and send off the wise men to find the young child prophesied of.
As you enter the "town" there are massive Roman guards in costume speaking gruffly to the townspeople.
You can go through the different "shops" and buildings there that have been transformed into a glimpse of Jewish life in that day.
One of our favorite stops is in the Jewish temple.
There you'll find a "rabbi" demonstrating some of the rituals of that day and the meaning and symbolism behind everything.
You can see my Abby at the bottom corner of the picture as she listened to the horn being blown.

We ran into our sweet friends from church in this building and had to grab a photo op!!

The children are always encouraged to participate in each period activity.
There are sheep and chickens to pet, garments to try on, bread and honey to sample, camels to watch, different period craftsmen to observe, and of course........

........Mary and Joseph to follow.
They come through "town" on a donkey and make a stop at the local inn.
You get to follow them to the little stable at the back of the property.

As you stand there with the crowd quietly watching this sweet, simple nativity begin to get it.
That what we're remembering during the Christmas season has nothing to do with Christmas trees, sparkly lights, blingy presents, and Santa.
We are simply remembering the humble, ordinary birth of our extraordinary Savior.
That He didn't arrive with parades and parties and fanfare.
In fact, it seemed so common to everyone at the time, that they didn't even realize this birth was the one they had been waiting for for so many years.
It was the simple arrival of "Emmanuel".......God with us.
The great  I am had pulled on skin and bones and arrived earthside to be the final sacrifice, the last perfect satisfying Lamb offered to cover the sin of the world.
To show us what grace and love and joy really looked like.
It always sets my perspective straight.....every year.

As we were preparing for our trip this year, I reminded my children that we needed to stop in and visit the flute player.
This guy just loved His Savior and playing the part of a Jewish musician.
He was a comedian extraordinaire and demonstrated all sorts of handmade wooden instruments.
We especially loved it when he would play the flutes with his nose!!!
But unbeknownst to us,last year after the final evening, he told his fellow interpreters that that would be his last performance.
That he had cancer and would not be with them in 2014.
And he wasn't.
We were all so sad to find this in his little booth.

As we wrap up our annual to this favorite family activity, we always stop to get a free cup of hot chocolate or hot cider.
We found our friends again and took a minute to snap a fun group photo!!!!

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