Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Kills the Skeptic...for now.

Co-worker, neighbor, friend, Megan invited me awhile ago to her church's "Journey to Bethlehem" event Sunday night. She tried to sell it with the fact that they have live animals like camels and donkeys...that you can pet! Any time live animals and Christmas are mentioned in the same sentence, I get flashbacks to my Senior year of high school where I played a shepherd in our church's Christmas pageant. This was one those big megachurch deals where they had it at the downtown convention center. The kind where two thousand people show up every weekend night for three weekends. There were live animals in that one too. I was in charge of wrangling a sheep up during the manger scene. This was fine except getting to the stage meant walking across a narrow platform over the orchestra pit. Ever night I was certain the sheep would revolt and take a nose dive into the tuba section. That never happened, but one night the sheep started gnawing on the straw in the manger with the baby Jesus. The headline: "Sheep eats Baby Jesus: Christmas Pageant Ruined" flashed through my mind while I tried to pull the sheep away.

Anyway, Sunday came and I figured it would be a nice thing to go. I was feeling a little guilty about Saturday night. So, I show up and the hardcore skeptic in me was waiting to rear his head. The Christmas spirit though never gave the skeptic a chance.

For Journey to Bethlehem, the church turned their parking lot into a recreation of the town of Bethlehem. There were over fifty people playing the town folk. There were centurions, Joseph walking around with Mary on her mule, the three wise men, dancers, and other town folk. There were shops where you would use shekels that were passed out to pay for food, flowers, and necklaces. Oh, and there were animals that you could pet.

Now the actors had to stay in character. The talked with their thees, thys, and thous as they talked with you about where I'm from and other chit chat. I will admit it got a little silly when they would be amazed and frightened at cameras and cell phones. The big highlight occurred about every half hour when the Angel of the Lord would appear. The sound of thunder would play over speakers. The actors would all act frightened. The centurions would raise their spears and protect the effeminate governor. Then up on the roof of one of the buildings the angel would rise on some contraption with the whole smoke and everything. He'd say his speech and then lower among a handful of other angels. When the angels would disappear with a the rising clouds, the town folk would all act excited and talk among themselves about the "good news."

I hung around with Megan, her husband Eric, and her grandparents. They left and I hung around for a couple more angel appearances while I ate baklava, fruit, and some cracker thing. I would normally be tearing something like this apart. But it was free, the production was pretty impressive and the children there were clearly having a great time. I even gave in and petted a few animals. For that night the skeptic was dead.

Oh and former super model Rachel Hunter was there in Bethlehem. Weird.


faith said...

Bethlehem people spoke Kind James English...who knew?

I can't even make it to church for Christmas anymore...good for you for giving it a chance.

thefamousgrouse said...

OMG(osh) - we did something very similar at my Mom's church one Christmas back when I was in high school. I remember tending a stall in the market, and everything smelled like cumin. I don't really remember any angels of the lord or King James English but why not? I do remember old church people wearing gross sandals. I think all of my feet disgust originates from church. Ugh. I'm going to be sick.

Jiff said...

Ms. Hunter was there to solely highlight (via contrast) the virginess of Mary.

Mandy said...

I have absolutely no Christmas experiences involving animals, unless Chags/Buffy/Tags/Rags by the Christmas tree counts. :-P I feel so deprived.

Jaime said...

I had no idea you were in the Living Christmas Trees! I'm sure I was in the audience--my family went every year. And every year I waited for one of those animals to take a crap on stage, but it never happened. Christmas is always full of disappointments.