Monday, December 22, 2008

Once Upon a Holy Night

I was looking over my much-neglected blog recently and realized I've made a shift. Originally, I started blogging as an outlet for my creative writing. I love to write, but hardly make time for it anymore.

Over time, it's turned more into a mish-mash of my favorite things, opinions, songs, and links. Which is fine, but I really would like to start writing creatively again.

Something I wrote recently was the narration for our Christmas musical. Granted, most of it came straight from the Bible, but I'll post it anyway... to get me back into the creative writing mode... (It wasn't read straight through, but was surrounded by music, dance, and acting.)

Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!

Narrator: Once Upon a time… or as the sacred scriptures say… In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. God looked at everything He made and declared it to be very good. Everything was as it should be – perfect. No sickness. No sadness. No death. God and man lived perfectly together. Tragically, in an act of rebellion, mankind chose to follow their own desires and disobey their Creator. Their punishment for this was death – eternal separation from God and all things good. However, their loving God did not treat them as their sins deserved. He took the initiative to design a plan to bring mankind back to Himself. The whole world rejoiced, looking forward to the arrival of the Savior – The One who was promised to come and restore the once perfect relationship between the Creator and His Creation..

To accomplish His plan, the Creator God chose the nation of Israel to be His people, and He would be their God. Time and again, God proved Himself faithful, and time and again, His people proved themselves to be faithless.

In the heat of Israel’s sin, a man named Isaiah heard the call of God on His life and responded with, “Here I am, Lord, send me!” While serving as an advisor to the kings, Isaiah became the spokesperson for Almighty God, declaring a message of hope, restoration, and forgiveness… telling mankind the way back. Back to that once perfect relationship with God.

Isaiah boldly proclaimed the word of God, speaking of this future savior, messiah who was to come out of the people of Israel and restore the relationship between God and men.

Isaiah: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Narrator: Israel waited hundreds of years for God to fulfill his promise of a Messiah, and once again, He was faithful. An angel appeared to a young Jewish girl named Mary. The angel said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled, but the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Mary asked the Angel how this could be possible, since she was a virgin. The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." Mary went and stayed with her cousin throughout her pregnancy, and praised God with her saying,

Mary: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.

Narrator: During the time of the Roman emperor, Augustus, a decree went out for a census to be taken of the Roman Empire. That meant everyone returned to the towns of their ancestors to register for this census. Because Mary was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of Israel’s King David, they had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. They traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. Mary gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them to stay in the inn. The Promised One – The Messiah – had been born, not in the way you might imagine heaven’s king to be born – but that didn’t keep all of Heaven’s hosts from exploding in celebration, rejoicing at His arrival!

Before they had left for Bethlehem, when Joseph found out that Mary was expecting a baby, he had actually planned to divorce her quietly. He was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace as an unwed pregnant girl. However, God had other plans for this special family.

Joseph: It seems so long ago, now that our baby is here. As I was considering what to do about Mary’s pregnancy, an angel of the Lord appeared to me in a dream and said that I shouldn’t be afraid to take Mary home as my wife, because the baby conceived was from the Holy Spirit. He said she would give birth to a son, and we should name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. The angel explained that all this had to happen to fulfill what the prophet had said. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, God with us. So when I woke up, I obeyed the angel, and the Lord has brought us here, to this humble manger. It wasn’t how I would have planned it, but as I held Jesus in my arms, and contemplated He would become, all of my questions and fears faded away.

Narrator: The night of Jesus’ birth, there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Shepherd 1: The night had been so quiet, and then suddenly, out of no where…
Shepherd 2: The noise, the light, the brilliance! Something from another world. It was so Heavenly.
Shepherd 1: But the angel said not to be afraid because they had good news for us.
Shepherd 2: Not just for us, but everyone!
Shepherd 1: Yes, he said to go to the town of David…
Shepherd 2: …Bethlehem…
Shepherd 1: And we’d find there a baby all wrapped up in cloths and sleeping in a manger.
Shepherd 2: And then more of them came! They filled the sky! And they praised God and sang the most beautiful songs of praise…
Shepherd 1: So of course when they had left, we stood there in the dark, not knowing what to do.
Shepherd 2: That’s when I said, “Let’s go!”
Shepherd 1: And we went, and it was just as they said…there he was, in a manger.
Shepherd 2: Which I didn’t understand, because I’d never seen a baby in a barn before…
Shepherd 1: But regardless of his humble position, we bowed, knowing we were in the presence of the King of Kings.
Shepherd 2: Looking into his little face, there was a peace, a stillness… I couldn’t say a word. (a moment of silence.)
Shepherd 1: Well, since we met him, none of us have ever been the same.

Narrator: This child born to Mary - Jesus, the Son of God - lived a perfect life, committing no sin as the rest of God’s creation had done. He taught the crowds about His Father’s story and showed them how to live in His perfect Kingdom. God planned that His Son would die to take the punishment that mankind deserved. After his death on the cursed cross, Jesus didn’t remain buried in the tomb – three days later he fulfilled prophecy by coming back to life, defeating death!

But the story doesn’t end there. Still today, God’s story continues, moving through each of our lives as God works in and through us to reconcile mankind back to Himself. Even now, He is offering this gift of His son to us. We are all broken people apart from God and experience pain in broken relationships with others, our own broken bodies, broken hopes, and brokenness for the wrong things we have done. We cannot measure up to God’s standard or earn His favor. But we can have new life and forgiveness by believing in the one He sent on that blessed Christmas Night - Jesus. That is why we celebrate! Because though we were far away from God, now, through His son, we can know Him again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Read Alouds

Hi! I'm currently reading, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" to my kids. In talking about it to friends, we're all reading that this year! What other read aloud chapter books are out there for Christmas time? I know of good, shorter picture books, but not longer novels.

I'd welcome any ideas! TIA!