At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire… All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census... Joseph traveled to Bethlehem from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child… – Luke 2:1-5
This morning I am both tired and inspired! Tired from Friday evening’s Walk Through Bethlehem opening, and inspired from the experience of working as a cast member.
This role of guide is a new one to me, but I managed to lead four groups (almost 150 people) through their pilgrimage without making any major mistakes. Unless you count the time I couldn’t get the tribe of Levi past the shepherd boys because the sheep are so darned cute (score: Sheep four – Derek zero!), and I heard myself say, “Come on, y’all!” instead of, “Tribe of Levi, walk this way.” But I did manage to cover for myself by pointing out that I’m actually from south Judea!
All told, we hosted 1,040 guests Friday evening. On average, in the groups I led through as a guide, more than two-thirds were first-time visitors and new to the experience.
“Blessings on your way,” my closing line goes as the crowd reluctantly begins to move away from the beautiful nativity, “Don’t forget to tell everyone you meet the story of the Messiah’s birth!”
Then, as I make my way past the inn, through the shepherd’s fields, past fresh crowds of pilgrims, and back to the beginning, an elder from our church leads my group to three rough crosses and they hear the rest of the story, the story of how God reached in – how God still reaches in – through time and space to provide each one of us with the opportunity to know him, to experience grace, and to live complete lives as followers of the Way of Jesus.
Yes, it was a beautiful night, and I am still tired. But I got up early this morning regardless, to spend an hour and a half with the men’s Bible study group, to pray together, and to share our stories – because the rest of the story is every day, this day, and the great challenge to live faithful lives.
We’ll be walking through Bethlehem again this evening, from 5:00-9:00, and again Sunday, 5:00-8:00. It really is the Greatest Story Ever Told, and it’s as fresh, and alive, and real, and relevant today as it was two thousand years ago.
Peace, hope, love, and joy – DEREK
(today’s photos – from Friday evening – courtesy of Paige Telep)
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.