Home christmas a walk to Bethlehem on a December night

a walk to Bethlehem on a December night

by Shawni

Last year, in an effort to try to make our church congregation Christmas gathering more Christ-focused, someone came up with the idea to do a walking nativity.

Some people in our congregation live on some farm properties adjacent to our neighborhood complete with horses and sheep and even a couple llamas and alpacas.

So we held that walking nativity over there.

We lined the streets with luminaries (which made it so magical to me), and families could be safe during covid to walk to each station to bring to life the story of the nativity. Loved that so many neighbors joined in who weren’t part of our congregation (I sure hope all our neighbors know they are invited to everything, sometimes it’s tough to make people feel welcome with no pressure of conversion, you know? I’d welcome any thoughts on that!)

So last weekend was our second annual “Walk to Bethlehem” and I loved it all over again.

So did Lucy…see her up there just chatting away with those angels?

Let’s back up though because see this beautiful friend of mine in the middle here below?

She is an exceptionally talented seamstress (she is the one who did an emergency fix on Elle’s dress she was wearing to Max & Abby’s wedding when my other friend accidentally burned a hole through it with the iron the morning of the wedding…ha!).

She made the most incredible clothing for the nativity.

We had angels:

Roman soldiers:

(she made those breastplates with thick leather, huge process, she really is so talented!)

Shepherds:

No outfits necessary for these guys:)

The Roman soldiers greeted everyone taking “taxes” (donations for the Afghan refugees who are coming in droves here to the desert right now):

The wise men:

The angels and the shepherds:

A better look at those shepherds tending their flocks:

…and on to Mary and Joseph and that little baby Jesus:

After visitors walked to those stations, they ended up here visiting for a while.

It was a good night.

How grateful I was to reflect, with all those people I love, on the birth of that tiny baby in that stable all those years ago.

After we got things cleaned up and packed back up again (it was a lot of work, but well worth it!), I came home and started putting together the stockings for the refugees we got all the donations for.

That project spilled out into multiple days of taking over the family room, but loved the opportunity to think about any love we can give to those people coming to a different land during tough times, maybe partially as a symbol of love for that holy nativity family who made their own journey to foreign lands all those years ago.

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8 comments

jenny also December 17, 2021 - 1:47 pm

Thanks for asking about how to include neighbors without feeling the pressured to convert! I suggest avoiding proselytizing completely in any and all of your conversations with them, always. For this event, something like “We’re going to be doing this Christmas story walk in our neighborhood to remind members of our church about our beliefs around the birth of Christ. As you know, there are a lot of us around here. Wanted to give you a heads up because on 12/11 you’ll see some fun, unusual outfits and decor. Please come outside to visit if you’d like. It will be a proselytizing free zone.”

I love the idea of giving to recent immigrants! I’m wondering if anyone asked the actual families what they would find most helpful or meaningful? I’m thinking a “stocking” containing gloves might not be what new arrivals to the suburbs of Phoenix need. They probably have no idea what that weird looking bag/sock thing even is and have no use for it so it could be a waste of resources. Gift giving that is focused on the recipients culture, needs, and desires is different than gifts focused on the “givers” culture, needs, and desires.

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Rorie December 19, 2021 - 11:54 am

I respectfully disagree about not needing gloves. I live in a climate that is similar to Phoenix, and we use those knit gloves every winter. It doesn’t get as cold as more northern states, but it does still get cold.

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Shawni January 15, 2022 - 5:21 pm

Thank you for those thoughts, Jenny Also, on talking to neighbors. I appreciate the feedback.

In answer to your question about the service idea, the answer is yes, the actual families were asked what would be most helpful. These requests were all directly from the refugees as well as the organization working to help them adjust to this new environment. I have to admit I was wondering about the gloves but I agree with Rorie, it definitely gets cold enough for gloves and hats here!

I also wondered about the stockings, but then figured we may as well introduce them to the culture of a Christmas stocking filled with love if they are trying to understand their new home better. Can’t hurt! Hope they felt that little bit of extra love on Christmas!

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PS December 17, 2021 - 8:37 pm

what a beautiful idea to raise money for the Afghan refugees! As a non-Mormon, I think if you emphasize the charity aspect (also that the charity is not your church) and the Nativity, that’s about as good as you can do! From my experience volunteering for a non-profit sponsored by a Christian organization – people value that you put your money/time/effort where your mouth is and genuinely help. Also, I have visited the Xmas lights at the Mesa temple a few times with some definite non-Christians at their invitation because they said it was just about Christmas with no pressure to talk to anyone about religion. So the message does get out!
Those Roman soldier costumes are amazing. What a talented and creative lady!!

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PS December 17, 2021 - 8:45 pm

Also, I didn’t mean to imply that Christmas isn’t about religion! It is of course! Just that there wasn’t pressure to talk about- you can just quietly take in the glory.

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Shawni January 16, 2022 - 1:10 pm

Yes I see what you’re talking about. If we profess to believe in Christ we should try our best to “walk the walk,” or maybe better said, “walk His walk.” Which means, to me, inviting everyone to “come and see.” I just never want people to think that we are inviting to convert, you know? I love the saying in this podcast I re-listened to recently. It was a pastor from another religion talking about the “art of neighboring.” Not sure if I mentioned it the first time I listened, but it was SO good! I love that he said, “we love and invite not to convert, we love and invite because we are converted.” That thought really hit me.

That podcast, if anyone is interested, is here:
https://leadingsaints.org/leading-in-the-art-of-neighboring-an-interview-with-dave-runyon/

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Sarah December 19, 2021 - 6:43 am

Love this Shawni! What a cool idea – the lights and real animals add so much to it. Just beautiful, along with the stockings. I’m sure I would feel welcomed no matter what as the purpose is so clear.

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Shawni January 16, 2022 - 1:10 pm

Love you, Sarah!
xoxo

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