“and a little child will lead them” – well, she led me… #WalkThroughBethlehem

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
    the calf and the young lion will feed together,
    and a little child will lead them. – Isaiah 11:61-IMG_E1986

Today I have a short take on our annual “Walk Through Bethlehem” event at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. But ultimately this post is about one story, one poignant moment I was privileged to witness. One testimony to light.

It was Friday night, the day we start one hour later and don’t expect quite so many visitors. Somehow 1,450 eager yet patient guests came through, in addition to the likely 150 cast and volunteers.

Personally, in costume and in character as a First-Century guide, I am restricted to the set. So my entire evening was spent either guiding groups of forty pilgrims through the interactive experience or blending in with the other characters as I walked through the series of scenes.

“The Magic”

The “magic” of Walk Through Bethlehem is best explained in part of the introductory remarks I offer to the “tribe” I am about to take through the experience.

“Shalom, my name is Derek,” I say. In Hebrew the sound”De-rek means – literally – The Way; I guess I was born to be your guide. Please remember that you are not spectators watching a production, but we are all participants, moving through First Century Palestine as we make this journey to Bethlehem. To the Roman soldiers, we are a wandering band of Jews who they love to intimidate. To the townspeople we encounter, we are their peers. To the wise men, we are fellow-travelers. To the angels, we will be the local people who hear the good news. To the innkeeper, we will appear as unwelcome guests. To Mary and Joseph, we are witnesses to a miracle…”

So there we were, it was my second group – the tribe of Zebulon – and we were heavy with children. Everyone was into the experience, eyes wide with wonder and spirits filled with the presence of God. Then, as we came down the hill from talking with the innkeeper, the heavenly host suddenly appeared above a simple manger and the children let out an audible gasp.

But it was when they came to a halt, directly in front of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, that it all came together for me and this time it was the guide who let out a gasp, a breath of wonder. There in the center of the first row of children was a little girl – maybe five years of age – and she dropped to her knees gazing at the Holy Family with hands folded in prayer.

Praying together before we begin…

You should have seen her face. If I ever had any doubts that Jesus is born again into this world today then those doubts were erased. If I ever wondered about the value of retelling the same story, year after year, then I do not wonder anymore. If I ever allowed cynicism or skepticism or disbelief any room in my Christmas celebrations there is no room for them now.

Just room for Jesus. Only Jesus.

“And a little child shall lead them,” the scriptures promise and affirm. “Except you enter the Kingdom as a child,” Jesus later told his disciples, “you will never enter at all…”

In love, and because of love – DEREK



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