The end of another week. A quick chicken noodle soup coming together on the stove, Baby Ben playing at my feet, Evan carefully stacking Legos at the kitchen table, a groggy Seth upstairs trying to wake up from his rare afternoon nap.
I get dinner on the table right as David walks in the door, and we tell the boys that we have something special planned for tonight. Coats on, shoes and socks found, and we’re piled into the van for a drive north of town. Traffic is bad, and we realize that the boys aren’t used to traffic jams. A chance to teach and explain about patience, and a time to have a family singalong of Christmas hymns.
We turn into a dark church parking lot and follow waving men with directional signals. Boys tumble out of car seats and run into the family life center. We are sorted into Jewish tribes and given plastic coins for our temple tax. We sign our names for the census.
People mill around tables of cookies and cocoa, waiting. The boys giggle and push a fussy Ben around in his stroller. They crawl under tables. I get increasingly tense as they get increasingly rowdy.
And then our tribe is called. Costumed interpreters usher us upstairs. We walk out of the building in the cold night. It’s smoky, and we hear Middle Eastern music and see lit torches on either side of our path. The boys instantly get quiet and alert. The atmosphere has changed.
We are led through different scenes. People leading sheep walk past us. We are offered fruit and cloth from street vendors. We are bullied by Roman soldiers and told to keep moving to Bethlehem. Evan holds our hands tightly and tells us that he doesn’t like them.
We stand in Herod’s court and watch his exchange with the Wise Men. He is a good actor, and the boys talk later about how mean he is.
Above it all, we see a bright star hanging over us. I wonder silently how many church members risked their lives to get it up that incredibly tall tree. Seth looks up and it, and I see wonder on his face.
We end at the stable and the babe in the manger. We are encouraged to go and tell the world that Messiah has come, and then we are back in the parking lot, slightly disoriented.
Seth tells me that he is so glad that we came. The boys talk about what they have seen all the way home. I ask them if Herod would’ve killed our baby boy if he had lived then. They discuss the many ways that they would protect Baby Ben from him. They all involve hitting and swords and one involves a giant bat.
David and I decide that Martin Luther King Jr. did something pretty amazing when he got people to protest non-violently. Violent retaliation seems to be pretty ingrained in human nature, even from a young age.
At bedtime, I give my baby a bottle and look into his beautiful blue green eyes. I croon “Away in a Manger” to him, and he snuggles close, tucking his tiny hands between his chest and mine. I give him an extra hug and kiss, thankful that we don’t live in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
‘Tis the season to make Christmas memories. Let the celebration of His coming begin….