DISCLAIMER: Yes, we know there was no such thing as e-mail back then. It’s unlikely that Mary called Elizabeth “Girl,” and who even knows the name of Herod’s guard? Certain aspects of this wonderful and beautiful story have been “tweaked” for dramatic purposes. Our goal is to look deeper into the story, to wonder what these people may have been thinking. We want to help your congregation see the birth of the Christ child as if it were happening for the first time. We’d like you and them to experience the joy and awe as they did so long ago on the first Christmas. 

Christmas Eve

To: “Sis”

From: Anna

Dear Sis:

As much as I detest Herod and Caesar, this census idea of theirs has made Hezekiah very happy. These past few weeks have brought in more money than the last two Passovers combined. As far as my dear husband is concerned, Herod can make his census an annual event. We have people in every room. Doubling up in most cases and I’m sure we are far beyond what the fire marshal would allow if he were not hoofing it with his only family to Syria, where he’s from.

Something odd is happening tonight. A few hours ago, a man and his wife came to the door looking for a place. Seemed like a cute couple. She was just a kid herself, but she looked like she was going to have her own baby right there on the doorstep. Like I said, we were full up; and Hezzy was stepping over sleeping people to get to the door as it was, so he sent them away. I dope slapped him just like Mom used to do to Dad and told him to put the girl out in the stable. He did — and wouldn’t you know it, just a few hours later there were three guests in the barn instead of two.

Soon after that, we had another knock on the door. This time, we didn’t need to wonder who it was. You could smell the sheep 20 feet before we opened it. Hez was quick to tell them we had no room;  but Sis, they weren’t looking for a room. They were looking for the girl and her new baby. Hez asked them why, and they said something about an angel and a multitude of the heavenly host. Yes, they smelled like sheep AND wine.

Hez sent them to the barn and didn’t even get the door closed before three men showed up in some of the finest robes we had ever seen. Of course, Hez had room for THEM. You could practically hear the coins jingling in their pockets. But they didn’t want a room either. THEY wanted to see the woman and her new baby.

So, I set to work making some food; because by this time, we had people sitting in the barn and on the lawn in front of the barn. But they were stone silent. None of them wanted to make any noise. Anyone so much as “peeped” and they were shushed. Nobody wanted to wake the baby. Sis, even the animals were quiet.

I took a tray of food out to the mother and the father. The new dad was grinning like a proud daddy and offered to pay, but I told him to keep it. I told him he was going to need it. Why would all these people come to see a baby? Babies are born every day, what makes this one special? Furthermore, how did all these people even know this baby would be here when the parents themselves didn’t even know where they’d be staying this night?

I will tell you that as I was standing there…I felt something. It wasn’t like warmth. It was more like feeling a light, like I could touch or taste it. That sounds stupid, doesn’t it?

Eventually, Hez said he was going out to tell the crowd they either had to pay or leave, but even he came back to the inn with the strangest look on his face. He didn’t send anyone away…In fact, he told me to take them some more food. He’s never done that before. This family is different. I wish you could be here to see it. I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening in the barn. Hez probably will want to make it a tourist attraction.

Send Mom my love.

Love,

Anna

The final Advent candle is lighted during the reading of the Scripture.

Scripture

Psalms 148:1-14 (NIV)
1 Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
6 He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and maidens, old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the Lord.

Closing Prayer
God, the candles have been lit. The light is here. The darkness is no more. We have walked too long in darkness, and now Your Son, the Light of the world, will show us the way. Welcome, God; You have been expected. Amen.

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About The Author

Steve Case has been active in youth ministry for 18 years, currently at Windermere Union United Church of Christ near Orlando, Fla. He’s also a popular speaker and the author of several books, including Everything Counts, The Book of Uncommon Prayer, and The Big Book of Case Studies. (YS)

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