On Thursday evening, Sister Bennion had put together a sweet program for Christmas. The Elders and Sisters performed in a choir and did a nice job. It was great to see the joy that they felt in being able to participate.
On Friday, Elder Dixon and I began the decorating for the Branch "Journey to Bethlehem". The Elders helped for about three hours and it was basically finished. When we got home, I still had some costuming things to finish for Saturday.
On Saturday, Elder Dixon got sick. We debated whether he should go and just lie down in the clerk's office, but decided we did not want him to make others sick. So, I ended up going alone. One problem, I don't have a key to the church and forgot to take his. Fortunately, two Elders live fairly close and were able to let us in.
This project has been a passion for me for several months. When we first arrived, the Relief Society President indicated that we needed to raise the spirituality of the Branch. Usually, the Branch would have had a barbecue for Christmas. That just didn't seem like the right thing, so I pulled out my favorite Church celebration. It was a lot of work. Lots of trips to Goodwill and sewing costumes. I had to have a Portuguese speaker and English speaker in every room and had the Spanish Sisters come because they had invited some Spanish speakers. The rules are tricky: A missionary must be with a companion or a member of the Church (who is of the same gender) at all times. That meant I had to have two of every position. I revised the script to fit our situation. As I was explaining it to our Elders, I realized that there was a significance to the characters.
The first character was the Shepherd. He personally experienced the miracle of the birth of the Savior. He was present when the angels appeared and announced the birth. He actually saw the Holy Child and worshipped him. The Shepherd had direct knowledge and did not doubt.
The room actually looked much better than in the pictures. It was dark, there was a log fire in the corner, and there were bags of wool. Don't mind the socks. Some Elders struggle with costuming!
The second room was the carpenter- a relative of Joseph's. He knew of the character of Joseph and Mary. He would have heard of the visitation by the angels, but did not experience it. It didn't matter, he believed on the words of others. He was a man of faith. When asked about that, the missionaries explained that they knew because of the Holy Ghost.
Wood donated from the scraps at a construction sight made it smell nice.
The third personality was the merchant who had no interest in spiritual things. The merchant's only interest in the traveling kings was in their money. When Balthazar, a wiseman, confronted the merchant regarding the cost of his soul, the merchant determined that the money was not worth his soul, and gave gold to the "travelers".
The Innkeeper's character was too busy to realize that he had Christ in his midst. He begins to realize that he missed something remarkable and is deeply sorrowful, we would call it repentant. He asks the other travelers to take frankincense to give to the child.
Each of the characters represents people who may be seeking Christ. For some, it means overcoming doubts or disinterest. For some, it is feeling the sorrow for not accepting Christ. For some, it means accepting the miracles that occur in one's life. For others, it means having the faith to believe without seeing.
King Herod was a lot of fun. He enjoyed his role and persecuted the travelers. He took the gold coins from them that Balthazar had given them. The best part was that he kept picking up babies and saying "I think this is the one." When one of the young mothers realized who he was portraying she said "Give my baby back."
Everyone who came was amazed. They had not seen anything quite like this. We did not have a lot of people attend, but people are already talking about next year since we will be here. It is true that the second year attendance will be better, and if they continue to do it every year, it will really get big. I hope that they can do so. It was a very nice evening.
Our Mission President and Sister Bennion are so supportive. Because Elder Dixon was sick and another person did not show up, I was in a difficult situation. President Bennion was willing to stand in and even wear a costume if needed. Our Senior Missionary couples came from the office in support. Love these people!