With Christmas quickly approaching, my child-like sense of wonder returns like a dear old friend. I love this season and everything in it that points toward the mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. I remember playing the part of an angel in my church’s Christmas play at four years old, fascinated by the story of Messiah’s birth. In all my years of growing up, though, I never imagined living roughly six miles outside of Bethlehem. This crazy reality has struck me more than once in recent days. I assure you, it is nothing short of surreal. What makes this situation and holiday even more remarkable is the fact that I get to share it with people from all over the globe. Talk about a tangible picture of, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”
In the spirit and cheer of Christmas, the members of our Jerusalem community thought our Kurdish neighbors might enjoy celebrating with us as well. They were so excited last night when I told them that we would have a party the following day, complete with tea and cookies, gifts, and games. What they didn’t know was that we were also planning a unique rendition of the nativity account, dramatized in full costume. This, I believe, was the first time Shevet undertook such a grand production. Finally, the hour arrived. Refreshments were served, the “theater” was still, and the Kurdish mothers and children sat waiting expectantly. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, our actors and actresses made ready to take center stage. Pictured below is our distinguished cast. (Sidenote: I could barely stop laughing long enough to keep the camera still for this priceless shot.)
As our pageant commenced, Rawand’s mother obliged us with reading some of Luke’s gospel account in Kurdish. I assisted her narration by giving the proper cues and translation. Line by line, the beautiful and profound events surrounding Messiah’s birth were told. I wonder what these words, so familiar to us, sounded like to our Kurdish neighbors. Appearances by Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, a sheep, and wise men all helped weave the ancient text into something palpable. And while the impromptu acting was entertaining and the costumes hilarious, I believe the heart of the story came across loud and clear: Messiah, born of a virgin, foretold by angels, was sent as a gift for all mankind. “It is because God loves us so much that He gave us Jesus, the best and most important gift for the whole world. Praise God for His love,” I concluded. The Kurdish women all chimed in with words of agreement.
After the final scene, the children joined in on the action and posed for some adorable pictures:
Having three one-year-olds in the house certainly made our festivities more amusing. What fun it was to watch them receive their presents! Little Rawand was content to simply shake his package back and forth, while Shaida and Sema took more interest in a roll of toilet paper nearby.
After a few rousing rounds of relay races and balloon toss, it was time for the Kurdish families to surprise us. The mothers had prepared a giant steaming tray of dolma, one of their favorite delicacies.
We all gathered around the table and ate our fill of rolled grape-leaves, vegetables, and rice. More pictures were taken, more laughs were shared, and joy was contagious. It may have been a cold December evening outside, but everything about our Christmas celebration was full of the warmth of God’s love.