(Sing it with me, "O, little town of Bethlehem, on the Occupied West Bank. . .")
(For my blog entries from the trip, go to the archives found on the right side of this page and start about April 15.)
I can't offer you a free trip to the real Bethlehem this Christmas season, but I can point you to the "Journey to Bethlehem" dramatization pageant that my congregation has put on annually for decades. It will run from from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow and from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday at Second Presbyterian Church at 55th and Brookside Boulevard.
We consider this a gift to our community, and each year something like 1,000 people go on the journey, which starts in our fellowship hall, which gets turned into an old marketplace in First Century Jerusalem, and winds up -- after several stops along the way -- at the holy manger in our sanctuary.
And although it is such a gift, the fact is that the people who participate in it often receive more than they give. They hear stories from strangers about what Christmas means to them. They meet children who are fascinated by the journey. And -- my favorite part -- after a long journey they enter into the sacred space where the manger is found.
Yes, of course, those who put this drama on are all amateur actors, but something important seems to happen when we immerse ourselves in the stories found in holy writ. As people in many different religious traditions can tell you, even as we read scripture, scripture reads us, finding our needs and speaking to them in many ways.
So if you have a bit of time tomorrow or Saturday evening, come on over the Second Church and enter into the sacred birth narrative -- which, as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us in his latest book on Jesus, may not involve singing angels or animals in a stall. But let's not mess up a good story by failing to leave a little room for imagination. (And why are some parts of the media getting all excited about what the pope said about Christmas in this book? Who didn't know this?)
Just so you know, some other congregations also put on journeys to Bethlehem. For instance, Southminster Presbyterian Church at 63rd and Roe has its pageant this weekend, too. For details, click here.
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P.S.: Speaking of taking a trip, I'm on one for a few days and, thus, won't be posting a second item here as I usually do until I return.