By the end of the day today (Sunday) I will have supervised eleven hours of Living Nativity drama, performed by over 50 different actors (not all at once!) over a space of two and a half days. The four scenes took audiences of 50 people (maximum) at a time on a 20-minute journey through Bethlehem. If all goes well, a couple of thousand people will get to see one of the 60 performances.
But of course it’s not all about the numbers, even if as writer/director/producer I’ve been fixated on that–and on the logistics of making it work and keeping it on schedule.
It’s really about getting inside the experiences of 2,000 years ago and recapturing the wonder and significance of the Christmas story. And that’s really what we should be doing during the Advent season every year. Fortunately, we don’t need to do anything as ambitious as mounting a Living Nativity to accomplish that.
Try listening to the voices of the Advent cast…those Biblical characters who were waiting patiently, faithfully for Messiah. Here, in the Jerusalem temple, if you listen carefully, you can hear an old man named Simeon.
“They come and go. From first light until last, from snuffing of the lamps to their rekindling–shuffling and shy or proud, pretentious folks–all of them come, and go. They bring their offerings, or buy them here: the lamb or kid or pair of turtledoves…they make confession, swear a vow, say a thanksgiving prayer–and then they’re gone, back into the world out there.
And with each footstep, I ask, ‘Is it now? Could this one be the One You promised us? He who will invest our coming and going with real meaning…Salvation and glory–not for the space of a day, or a year…not at the constant cost of bloody beasts…but everlasting Hope for our nation, and a light to lighten the whole world’s night!’
My corner seat is dark–my eyes, too weak to read, don’t need to see the scroll now anyway. Your Word I’ve hidden in my heart, and I am sure, waiting and watching in these shadows, You will not let me sink into the greater darkness before I see the first rays of the dawn You’ve sworn will come…
Outside the dusk is thickening into night again–and so I light my candle, and I wait.”
(adapted from Advent Longings, by Lauren E. Nichols, copyright 1997)