Today’s Reading: Luke 2:1-3 NIV
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
Last night at Faith Church, we experienced what a census taking might have been like in the town of Bethlehem. The entire church was transformed into a marketplace where folks came to register their families, as required by the law. People were walking along a narrow path shoulder to shoulder! There was so much to see and do! I traveled in a family of fifteen and was quite taken with the children in our group. I find I learn best through the eyes of a child, and I was not disappointed in this journey.
Families crowded together to register, surrounded by scary looking Roman guard. Every child received a bag of coins to spend at the various shops along the way. In the carpenter’s shop, the children enjoyed hammering nails into pieces of wood, and fashioning miniature sail boats, just like the boats the fisherman used to catch fish on the Sea of Galilee. In the leather shop, the children were able to touch and smell different types of soft leather. While listening to the stories of the leather makers, they made leather bracelets to wear throughout the evening. There was a candy shop, where the children got to make and taste baklava, a sweet treat! In the bakery, the women explained the bread baking process and samples of fresh bread was served to all, even the beggars that hung around outside its doors, begging for something to eat.
At each stop, we heard rumors of a Savior being born that night somewhere in Bethlehem. As we traveled from place to place, our family continued to search together for the miracle that everyone kept talking about. The shop owners told of angels and shepherds and a star that would lead us to the infant king, if we would simply follow it. Children of all ages enjoyed the hands-on scavenger hunt, putting the clues together piece by piece, as we walked through the marketplace with our family.
As we traveled together, I began to notice some very sleepy faces. Where could our family find a quiet place to rest, an escape from the hustle and bustle of the large crowds in the marketplace? The shepherds led us to a dark stable just outside of town, where the children met Joseph, Mary, and a beautiful newborn baby named Jesus face to face. We heard the amazing story of the baby’s birth told by the pastors. Then, we were invited to have our family picture made with the Holy Family. The children were fascinated to see the newborn baby, who wiggled and cooed in his mother’s arms. Children of all ages simply did not want to leave. We just wanted to stay near the Savior and look at Him. I saw one of the little girls from our family standing near the manger, waving to the baby and saying, “I love you, Jesus!” I know exactly how she feels.
There is no greater gift than the gift of our Savior. The presence of Christ in our lives is the best present you or I will ever receive. May you find yourself journeying to Bethlehem to meet the Christ child this Advent season. When the census is taken, will your family be registered?
Grace and peace,
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO
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