In our home we have three nativitiy sets and two of them have special significance.
One has been scrapped many times before as it is very old and one of the cheapest yet most precious things I own. The focus of my JYC today is special for a completely different reason.
In 1998 we made a trip I had always wanted to make and yet always dreaded making. We visited Israel. I had wanted to go to the Holy Land for as long as I can remember, butt he older I grew the more worried I became that it would not be what I hoped it would be. I dreaded seeing gargantuan churches built over the simple beauty I longed to experience. However, the trip was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more.
One of our trips was into Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity. The journey was one of the scariest days we have ever spent.
Crossing the border from Israel into Palestine, and Bethlehem is of course Palestinian, is interesting at the best of times. However, there had been a problem the day we visited. We were on a very small tour with 7 of us that day in a mini bus with our superb guide Modi. Modi was a fabulous guy - a 26 year olf history and archeology graduate who was second generation Israely and in the week we were with him we never found out if he was Jewish, Christian or Muslim - he was marvellously non biased.
Anyway, in trying to cross the border we had great difficulty. There was a lot of talking and what sounded like arguing and, in hindsight, they wanted to stop us crossing but Modi talked them into it and we went round so many small back streets to get to Manger square. We were worried (we had been worried quite a bit in Israel) and had visions of headlines reporting a mini bus of tourists had gone missing.
Anyway, we enetered Manger Square and whilst there were armed soldiers everywhere we had seen many of them and so were not unduly worried. We visited the church and it was wonderful and eventually it was time to leave. Mmmmm. Things had changed. Unbeknown to us at the time there had been some problem with a Palestinian man found dead and Israelis implicated and there was a bit of a to do going on. we were hurried into the mini bus and drove down streets where there were armoured vehicles and tanks and lots of soldiers. We suddenly made an unsheduled stop and were hurried into a large gift store. Modi said it was owned by friends of his and after a hurried conversation with him and the owner we were offered drinks and cakes and told to browse. I hadn't noticed - but Nigel had - that the door had been locked behind us.
We were in there for about an hour. We shopped, we bought the nativity set, and we were all keen to leave but more drinks were pressed on us and then, as suddenly as we arrived, we were told to leave and hurried back out to the mini bus. We were by then, very scared.
As we drove back to our hotel in Jerusalem we asked what had happened as we knew Modi knew. He told us to watch CNN in the hotel. We did and learnt about the riot and the scariest thing was seeing soldiers firing what we hoped were rubber bullets hiding by a wall to a shop - the shop we were in! He had taken us to a friend's shop and we had been locked in to keep us safe.
However, the nativity remains an important memory for us. And for me, Christmas starts with a nativity service which is always filled with wonder and beauty and innocence and so, today, Christmas officially starts.
Today I am thankful for
- Nativity services
- Travel - and coming home safely
- The wonder of the Christmas Story
I have another page to share made with Dawn's new Secrets collection on sale at her Scrapbookgraphics store.
The gorgeous Emily of course.
And my page a day calendar page
I can’t complain. Bill Riccardulli had warned me before I hired him that he had an erratic schedule. But I’d heard so much about his skills as a carpenter that I hired him anyhow to repair the sticking doors in our old house.
“I’ll come when I can,” he said, and I thought he was referring to his job as a firefighter in New York City, 40 miles away. Metro firefighters work on a schedule of 24 hours on duty, 48 hours off.
But it was more than that. One day after Bill failed to show up, he told me he’d spent time with the children. On another occasion, he’d found a babysitter and was going to take his wife to lunch, just the two of them. One Saturday, he arrived with a helper who was dark-haired, brown-eyed, and four
years old. “Meet Mr. Sherrill, Thomas,” Bill said, and Thomas held out his hand solemnly. Throughout the morning, I watched as Bill gave Thomas real work: picking up nails, bringing a hammer, holding a board.
“Were you always such a family man?” I asked Bill during a break. He was silent. I thought he hadn’t heard and was about to repeat the question when Bill said, “I was at Ground Zero on Nine-Eleven.”
That’s all he said, all I needed to know.
The love that came to earth at Christmas wasn’t simply a showering of gifts; God had been doing that from the beginning of creation. The love in the Incarnation was the love that Bill Riccardulli was giving his family—the gift not of presents, but of presence.