Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Journey To Bethlehem

I’m writing this the morning after this experience provided by the Hillside Church of God in Springfield, presented at the Church of God Campgrounds, just west of the Springfield City Limits.

Let me back up, a little.

Last Thursday night I got sick with the flu, and stayed in bed until Saturday morning at breakfast. Not too peppy even then, but I went down to eat anyway. Seemed OK, but shortly after breakfast, I realized that the remnants of the flu remained - tiredness, weakness, a little queasy etc. - so I lay back down again to rest. I didn’t make my bed, I just rested on top.

At lunch time on Saturday, it seemed like I would be feeling OK, but half-way through, I just thought I would feel better lying in my bed. Didn’t eat much.

I hacked at this computer a little, but then it seemed like I would feel better lying on top of my bed - so I did.

At about 1:55 PM, there was a loud knock on my door, and when I said, “Come in”, Timi opened the door slightly and said, “Are you comin’ down? We’re about ready to start!” I said, “I can’t decide”.

She was talking about a pre-school singing group from First Christian Church that was here to “entertain” us.

I thought, “I can’t miss those kids”, so I climbed out of bed and went out the door. I could hear her next door, routing out my next door neighbor to go also.

Walking down the hall toward the Dining Room, I could hear Timi and her other “culprit” walking behind me.

When I got there, I saw that the chairs were all lined up in 3 rows, with another to be added.

I sat in the present back row, among my fellow Grand Court Residents. When I arrived, David came over and asked if he could sit beside me. He does this a lot, and, of course, I don’t object.

The pre-schoolers sang their songs for us, then asked us to join them in singing well-known Christmas Carols.

After each of their selections, they received a nice round of applause from us residents.

When they sang the carols - asking us to join them - I started singing some, though my voice had not returned to its normal timbre. I couldn’t reach the high notes very well.

This was confirmed shortly, when David moved one seat away from me. I, and another senior citizen near by started to laugh - both of us knowing that David wasn’t enjoying my singing. Shortly, I stopped singing, and David returned next to me. Need I have more confirmation of his feeling about my singing that day?

When the singers were finished, Timi provided sugar cookies for them, and they passed out to us, candy canes with a description of the cane, and the letter “J”.

I went back to my room, and “sacked out” for a little.

For some reason, I returned to the Dining Room, and found Jessica Nissley leading the residents in group singing - and an occasional special number by her.

I was encouraged to “sit-in”, and the granddaughter of Marjorie tried to get me to go up front and sing. When David had moved away from me earlier, she encouraged me to sing more.

More singing by the group and by Jessica, then I was asked to go up front to sing. I said that no one means as much to as Jesus, and then sang “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus“ (as many of the words as I could remember)

With further encouragement, I then sang the solo I first sang 70 years ago in Church, “O Rest In The Lord”. Surprisingly, after all these years, I still remembered nearly every word.

By then, I thought I had shown off enough, so I returned to my room.

The next day was Sunday, and I got up and went to church.

That night, the Hillside Avenue Church of God put on a spectacular presentation of a “Journey to Bethlehem”, at the Church of God Campgrounds just west of the Springfield City Limits.

Jodi had called me the previous evening, asking if I would like to join her and Rylan for this presentation. Assuming I would feel OK, I agreed.

I’m surely glad I did!

This dramatic play - spread out over an acre of ground, with hundreds of realistic scenes from Bible times, and maybe that many individuals particitating.

In the dining hall of one of the buildings, they separated us into about 6 groups - with about a dozen in each group - and were led out of that building to go on a “realistic” journey to Bethlehem, on the night of Jesus’ birth.

We were led by a supposed Jew from Hebron, coming to Bethlehem to pay taxes, as all citizens were required to do at that time. On the way, we met shepherds, Roman soldiers, and other pilgrims traveling that way.

Our leader explained each step of the journey, and at each stop, someone there explained what was going on.

Presently, loud music and singing voices echoed over the trees, and from an upper elevation, angels dressed in white and shrouded with light, announced the birth of the Christ Child, and sang “Glory To God in the Highest” for a Saviour has been born.

From there our travels carried us to an Inn without a vacancy; past several shop keepers - some of whom were happy about this announcement, while others were not. Roman Soldiers warned us not to believe all the rumors about this Birth.

We were “dragged” before a Tax Collector, and questioned seriously, with our guide being the one who paid and carried us through.

When we left there, more soldiers, and some peasants greeted us - with one opinion or another.

Soon, we were led further on, where we found a stable with a manger, and Joseph, Mary and Jesus were on display, while the Three Wisemen stood by, announcing their fealty to the Christ Child. They then told us they would NOT report to King Herod what they had seen and heard.

Leaving there, we traveled some distance toward a wooden cross that had obviously been recently occupied, and were met by the Pastor of the Church who explained what we had just experienced, and the message of the birth, death, and eventual resurrection of Jesus, and what that could mean to us if we receive Him as our Saviour.

Following this, we were directed a short distance to another building, where we received hot chocolate and cookies, since it was rather chilly. Then, a bus returned us to the other side of the campground to our cars.

A wonderful experience!

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