Friday, December 23, 2011

A Night In Bethlehem

I did something tonight that I have not done in a very long time.
I went to church.
Well...........not exactly, but sort of.
I saw a full page article in the local newspaper the other day promoting a live nativity scene at Grace Baptist Church in Tullahoma that was scheduled for the evenings of December 21, 22 and 23.
I had seen similar articles in years past because Grace Baptist holds their live nativity annually but I had never attended.
For reasons that did not understand I wanted to go this year.
LC asked me when the last time was that I had gone to church and I could not remember.
Probably for someones' wedding I imagine but still cannot recall when that was for sure.
I had visited two very spiritual places during the past two years.
One was the very very beautiful Shrine of St Therese in Juneau Alaska:
And the other was the Wayfarers Chapel in the middle of the Shoshone National Forest outside of Cody Wyoming:
Both of these very wonderful and quiet places were silent and empty on the days that I visited and I enjoyed both of them immensely.
In the newspaper the description of the live nativity said this:

Walk the streets of Bethlehem the night Jesus was born.  Visit the shops and hear all of the excitement about this baby born in humble surroundings and yet shepherds and kings seek to honor him.  It will be a night you will remember.
There will be bonfires to warm by, and farolitos to light your pathway to the different events.  Warm beverages and cookies served at the Hospitality Tent.  Enjoy watching the shepherds tending their sheep and hear the angels announce the birth of the baby.  See the kings presenting gifts to the Christ Child as an angel watches from above.  Don't forget to visit the cross and read the plaque.  The message there will make a difference in your life, and explain the true joy of celebrating Christmas.

The event also promised youth and adult choirs, variety shows and a string quartet.
I had no idea what to expect but wanted to go, and so LC and I headed out on a dry and increasingly cold evening to a baptist church only a mile from our home.
Surprised at the sheer number of people milling around the closed off street we followed the candles that lined the streets until we entered the "market"..............
We had seen the spotlight from the house and it shone brightly into the  cloudy and dark sky...........
There is probably a setting on my camera that allows me to be able to take better pictures at night, but standing in the dark and cold I could not figure out where that setting was.
And so many of my pictures were either too blurred or too dark.
This blurry picture is taken from in the center of the market looking back along the candle lit pathway towards the baptist church on the opposite side of the street...............
Walking out of the market we followed the sound of singing.
This adult church choir was singing Christmas carols and I was both surprised and delighted at just how lovely they sounded..................
We stood listening to and greatly enjoying the sounds of the choir.
As I listened to the singing I turned to look at my Mountain Boy and could tell that he was enjoying this experience as well.
While the entire trip was a strange journey for me I knew that it was familiar to him.
He grew up with a father who preached, an entire family of musicians who played music and sang in churches in many states, a brother who is deeply religious and who still continues to sing in religious settings.
The sights and sounds of this evening were all familiar to him, although it was a long-ago familiar.
We eventually walked away from the choir and wandered towards a tent where church volunteers were serving hot apple cider and hot chocolate and cookies to visitors, and then found a seat inside the church so that we could spend a short while watching a variety show.
We did not stay for the entire show but it was a fun and easy going show made up of music and magic and families of all ages in the packed audience ranging from very young to very old.
All very nice and comfortable and unpretentious and giving.............
A beautifully decorated church................ 
Visitors warming themselves at one of the many bonfires that were set up around both the church and the market.............
We walked through one last section of the market as we headed back towards the truck..............
LC and I spent much more time at the event than either one of us had expected, and enjoyed ourselves much more than either one of us had expected as well.
Religion is not a part of either one of our lives but I greatly liked being part of this experience.
It was an event full of smiling faces and welcoming people who asked for nothing more than for the community to attend and enjoy.
On a night so close to Christmas it was filled with joy, peace, gentleness, wholesomeness, goodness.
And on a night so close to Christmas those were the things that I truly am glad to have had the opportunity to share in and celebrate..............

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