Tonight, I went with one of my EX co-workers to this thing called a "Bethlehem Walk." I didn't know what to expect, but I am so glad I went! The thing was awesome! It was held at the ECW's (Ex co-worker) church in a town about 20 miles away. I drove because ECW is 17 and I'm 24 and no offense to teenage drivers, but I'm not digging that. Especially considering the snow and ice we got the other day. Anyway, so we got there and waited around till our "appointment" time because it's a very popular attraction and you have to have tickets for the thing. ECW's mom gave us her tickets because I've never been to the B.W. before. Fortunately though, a lot of people cancelled because of the weather, so we all got to go.
So, we got there and waited and finally it was time for us to begin. We all got a sheet of paper that told us that we were being commanded to go to our town of origin to register for the purpose of taxation and military obligations. We traveled together as the family "Zephaniah," and we had two guides who helped us through the walk. The command we were given had Caesar Augustus' name in another language at the bottom. Anyway, so we went through the "time machine" back to about 700 years before Christ's birth to the time of the prophet Isaiah. We went in there and he prophesied about the birth of the Messiah.
Then we continued through and we saw Mary praying in a room. The angel came and told her she would bear a child. After that, we traveled to Elizabeth's house to see Mary and Elizabeth's conversation when the baby in Liz leapt at Mary's greeting. The next room on the walk took us to Joseph's shop where he contemplated what he should do about the "mess" he and Mary were in. Another angel told him that he was to not dismiss Mary, because she had done no wrong. After we left Joseph's shop, we went outside and then to the Inn where we got some refreshments of hot soup broth, grape juice, and pieces of bread. The Innkeeper was very nice to us, despite the fact he had no lodging for us. Unfortunately, we heard the shouts of "What is that stench!" and then the Roman soldiers came into the inn and were harassing us. They looked at a bunch of our papers to make sure we were who we said we were. The paper was supposed to give us safe passage. ECW was accosted by one of them. The soldier told him that they needed a slave to shovel dung in their stables. The soldier ordered him to stand up and put his arms out. Then he said, "What are those? Chicken wings?! Sit down, you filthy Jew." The soldiers ordered the innkeeper to get rid of us. So, we had to leave, but not before Joseph and Mary came and asked for lodging. The wife of the innkeeper had the idea that the very pregnant Mary and her betrothed could stay in the manger, considering she was so close to giving birth.
The next part of our journey took us outside again. We went and saw a blacksmith's shop where there were two donkeys outside for the kids to pet. The blacksmith told us that we could go inside on the way to the marketplace because there was a good storyteller in town. So, we went in, sat down on some hay, and listened to a woman telling us a story about Gideon who defeated the Midianites. And basically, this was a sermon about how God is with us, even though we think we're the lowest of the low sometimes. It was good. "You are a mighty warrior. The Lord your God is with you!"
After the storyteller was done, we continued to the marketplace. There, we were stopped by the Roman soldiers and the Jews who had taken jobs as tax collectors. The guides did the "official" talking with the soldiers, but they were circling us. ECW and his sister were stopped by them and the soldiers interrogated them for a few minutes. They asked them to spell their name. Neither of them could, so the soldiers ripped their papers and told them to get out of their sight. After our guides paid the tax collectors, we could go into the marketplace. However, one of the soldiers accosted me, took my paper, and said, "What is the name of your clan, Jew?" And I said, "Zephaniah." He said, "Spell your name if you're speaking the truth." And I said, "Z-E-P-H" and he said, "Hurry up, I haven't got all day!" and I said, "A-N-I-A-H." And he thrust my paper back at me and said, "Very well. You may go." And one of his compatriots said, "Oh look here, we have an educated Jew!" But I was actually kind of intimidated. It's amazing but I felt like I'd actually been transported back in time, almost.
Anyway, so I got to then go into the marketplace. There were booths with crackers, candy, fragrances, fresh fish (which was really tuna on tortilla chips), bead workers, and music makers. We got to check that room out (and one of the merchants was a younger woman who often comes into Restaurant. She said "Did the tax collectors treat you badly? I said "Yes, they're mean." And then walked away.) Another merchant was grumbling to me about how the tax collector should be ashamed of himself and shouldn't even be allowed to call himself a Jew. Then a soldier told me to move it along. The marketplace was fairly large, and I was walking around.
After we were done with the marketplace, we again walked outside and over to look at the star high above us, leading us to where the Christ child was. An angel appeared and told us, "Do not fear; for behold, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And then he went away and we walked into the Inn where Mary and Joseph were holding the newborn Jesus. We sat down on the hay that was around. There were animals in the manger, too. They spoke a few lines, and then they exited. A screen came up and the song, "My Deliverer is Coming" came on with its video. And then, the guides showed us out, up the walk (where we saw the Magi going to give Jesus gifts), and back through the time machine to bring us back to the present.
This was a completely awesome night! The B.W. was just amazing. I actually felt like a Jewish person going to be counted. The Roman soldiers made it even more convincing. Wow. After we came in, we went downstairs and had hot cocoa and cookies. There were a few people who explained what goes into the production. They said it takes about 200 people to do everything: setting up, acting the different roles, building stuff, etc. And they have to take the Isaiah scene down tonight because it's in the back half of their sanctuary (I wouldn't have known that. It looked like a mountain to me!) and then reset it after worship tomorrow. The mountain on which Isaiah stood was made up of some stuff that is custom fit to fit over the backs of their pews. Seriously, the scenery was really good, the acting people did a marvelous job. They didn't even read their stuff. I was just amazed. If you EVER get the chance to go to one, GO!!!! It was awesome.