The re-enactment was spectacular. From Roman guards and merchants, to the temple priest and townspeople. We were immediately transported back thousands of years to that very special night, when the birth of a baby would change the world.
The light mist that fell from the sky added to the surreal ambiance created by the flaming torches gleaming high above the 'city' walls. We waited with anxious anticipation to be ushered into the re-created town of Bethlehem. A narrator welcomed us and introduced herself as the innkeeper's daughter. She told us not to count on staying overnight in Bethlehem. All of the inns were full, in fact, earlier that evening, her father had had to turn away a couple because there were no more rooms. The young woman was clearly expecting, so her father had offered them the stable out back for shelter.
Off in the distance, I could make out the forms of Roman soldiers marching in formation declaring their allegiance to Caesar Augustus - the Roman ruler of the day. Once they were before us, their captain dismounted from his horse, climbed atop the city gate, and issued Caesar's decree: all the world was to be taxed. We were to register when we entered the city and pay our taxes as required. The guards took their roles seriously and with stern expressions, urged us to, "Move along!" They were not to be trifled with.
After registering, we continued into the 'city,' where we were amazed by the sights and sounds that overwhelmed our senses. Townspeople dressed in traditional garb, stirred large kettles of food that were suspended over open fires. Numerous stalls were erected, from which the Bethlehem merchants were selling their wares. The sounds of eastern music filled our ears. A selection of some of the foods of the day were on display and available to sample.
The shofar sounded, summoning the town's Jewish residents to the synagogue. The priest gave an explanation of the service and taught us a few sentences in Hebrew. He invited us to pick up a 'scroll' on the way out. As we carefully unrolled our scrolls, the words of Psalm 33:20-22 were visible, "Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee" (KJV).
As we descended the temple steps, townspeople with llamas and camels bustled by. The ever-present, Roman soldiers, hurried us on our way. Brick-masons, leather workers, and spice sellers were all busy about their tasks. We entered the heart of Bethlehem.
Another narrator told us the story of the anointing of the shepherd-boy, David, who eventually became the king of Israel. Ultimately, the Messiah would come from this Davidic line. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet had foretold, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6-7).
After a tour of one of the local resident's home, we passed the inn. The innkeeper and his wife, although gracious, confirmed that their inn was full. As we continued on around back, we were met by quite a sight! Angels, robed in white, lit the sky while Mary and Joseph cradled baby Jesus, giving praise to the Father.
Each member of the cast who performed that night, had one goal in mind. To point all who passed through the gates of the recreated city of Bethlehem, to the reason for the season. Jesus Christ. As the angels proclaimed all those years ago, "...unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).
As you fill out your Christmas cards, purchase those final few gifts, and spend time with friends and family, will you take time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas? Jesus Christ, the Savior, was born for you! That's definitely something worth celebrating!