In my last post I wrote about our new Christmas outreach that we are doing this year at our church. That was on the day we were about to launch. Now I can report on how it all went.
Over the 3 nights we had over 840 people through with about half of them having no church connection. The groups averaged 15 in number on Friday and Saturday and then ballooned to around 25 in number on Sunday night (our biggest crowd). The International Student group numbered over 40! That made things a little tricky for the Centurions (our “tour guides” for the night), trying to navigate around some tight spaces. But we managed it all well in the end.
The responses we got from people ranged from being suitably impressed to being completely overwhelmed. No one gave us a bad report. There were plenty of, “Thank you so much for putting this on!” It was really cool seeing the faces of people as they walked through the archway into the marketplace. That exceeded all their expectations.
We had a range of activities to keep people interested during their time in the Marketplace. Kids could be kept busy making baskets, clay models, Christmas tree ornaments and beads. There were fresh cherries and berries you could buy in the fruit stall, Turkish delights in the sweet stall or mulled apple “wine” at the tavern. Basically, we had something to suit all ages and tastes.
What we found interesting however was in the end, it was the final scene with Mary singing and Joseph’s message, that seemed to have the most impact on people, whether they were Christians or not.
Here are some of the comments we got back via Facebook or email:
“Thank you 😊. This was an incredible production. An experience my children and I will never forget and an absolutely beautiful way to ‘experience’ the story of Christmas.”
“What an amazing effort you guys pout in, absolutely loved spending my shekels in the market place, so authentic and busy and so much to see and to the young Mary, what a beautiful voice, very welcoming people, – thank you.”
“Thoroughly enjoyed the performance of all. Even the little ones getting in on the act. I can but imagine all that went on with building the set. Hats off to Mary’s singing. She was delightful to listen to.”
“That was off the chain!! Our teenage boys thought so as well; all 9 of them 😊. Thanks so much for taking us on a journey back to Bethlehem 2000 years ago, such an awesome production well set up and amazing people too ❤.. loved it!”
I remember those boys in the last comment. They were on my tour (I was one of the Centurions). I sat around their table in the café after we finished. One of them started asking questions one after another – I couldn’t answer fast enough! Here is part of the conversation:
“Hey bro – so Jesus was born a baby. So, he was normal, just like us”
“Yes and No. He was just like you and me. But he had no badness – no sin. You and me – we think and do bad things – right? We do stuff we regret. Jesus didn’t do any of that – ever.”
“Did he cry when he was a kid?”
“Then he grew into a man and taught about God and did heaps of miracles”
“He died – early.”
“How did he die?”
“On a cross”
“What’s a cross?”
“It what the Romans used to kill criminals [I made a symbol with my fingers] It’s a horrible death. They nail your hands to the cross beam and your feet to the pole. Before you can take a breath you have to lift yourself up which means putting pressure on the nail holes which makes it even more painful.”
He looks thoughtful at this point. He was really thinking.
“So that’s it? He just dies?”
“No – he dies for our sin. While he was on that cross he was taking your badness and my badness on him and suffering for it. Then he rose again from the dead…”
The conversation went on for another 15 minutes or so. But it gives you some insight into how many people are really open to hearing the gospel – people that have absolutely no idea who Jesus really is or why he came. This is why it’s so important that Christians are doing what they can to reach them. Not everyone will be receptive. But some – like this one, are. And that makes events like this worth while.
It was a huge effort on the part of our church family. By Sunday night we were all exhausted – especially those holding main roles the entire production through. But it wasn’t only the actors. It was all the behind-the-scenes people that worked so hard to bring things together as well as the families who were there in costume with their children from 5:00-9:00pm each night.
I’ve been involved with a lot of outreach events over the course of my ministry. This by far outdoes them all. I simply can’t wait to get my Centurion costume on again and share the good news of Jesus with more people in our community – as well as having a hang a lot fun along the way. But that will have to wait for next year.
I’ll leave you with a little scene we captured on video on the final night. The Inn Keeper gave the Centurions a lot of cheek over the course of the event. They got their own back by arresting him and dragging him through the market. Now that got us a few laughs!
Many thanks to:
Marty who literally spent hours of his own time building sets and arranging lighting and curtains (and who-else-knows-what)
The builders, carpenters, electricians, graphic artists and painters in our church who gave much of their time to this
Lizette and Liz and Sue and their helpers who hand-made many of the costumes
Kathryn, Katrina, Christie and the Eishler family who were there every day in the last two weeks doing finishing touches
The elders of our church who also threw themselves into this by way of prayer and support
To Rochelle, our church administer, who worked overtime behind the scenes taking calls and arranging bookings and producing handouts and signs
To Jada, who had the vision in the very beginning to make this happen. She still has fond childhood memories of attending this at a church near her home growing up.
And most importantly, many thanks to:
Our Heavenly Father, who cared enough for a lost and rebellious humanity that he sent his own Son to redeem them
To the Lord Jesus, whose willingness to lay down his life on our behalf made our redemption possible
To the Holy Spirit, who empowers God’s redeemed people, and energizes them for such events as this