Tuesday, December 23, 2008
When I was in elementary school, my Dad had the idea one year to recreate the ambiance of the first Christmas for his three young daughters, allowing them to experience what it really would have been like to have been Mary and Joseph on the night of Jesus' birth. He contacted one of the older couples in our church who had a farm, and they excitedly agreed to allow us to spend the night in their barn on Christmas Eve. After the annual Christmas Eve service at church, we bundled up in warm layers of clothing, packed our sleeping bags in the car (I know, not too authentic!), and headed to the barn. There, surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of a real barn with animals, we recited those familiar verses from Luke 2 and thought about what Mary and Joseph must have experienced on that holy night so long ago. The owners of the barn had erected a manger with a baby doll in it to help authenticate our experience...and in their excitement, they even dressed their sheep up...with little bells around their necks. Once we settled down in our warm sleeping bags and turned off the lights (we didn't use candles for fear of all that straw and hay!) we learned something about the farm at night--sheep don't sleep laying down all nice and still...those pretty little bells rang all night long! Needless to say, we were up bright and early on Christmas morning, ready to head back home to Mom, warmth, presents, and turkey. But the memories of that night are forever etched in my mind, and I do have a greater appreciation for what Mary and Joseph endured on the night Jesus was born. And whenever I sing that familiar Christmas carol depicting a Silent Night, Holy Night, I can't help but smile and think Come On, Ring Those Bells!
P.S. We actually did this twice in my childhood...the second time was when I was in junior high, I believe, and we took our cousins along for the experience, mice and all...you really ought to try it sometime!