Fuller Southwest MACL student Cindy Snead describes a jarring experience at a nativity pageant she attended long ago in Bethlehem—one that changed the way she views Advent.
December, 1981. Bethlehem. Yes, that Bethlehem. I was halfway through a yearlong commitment at a nearby mission hospital. Along with a group of young North Americans, I was attending an outdoor "Nativity Pageant." We sat precariously on metal stadium seats on a very cold, very dark night. The stars in the winter sky were breathtaking and the pageant felt very authentic. The animals were real, camels and all. The smells were real. The characters were real—no fake beards or weird costumes. All in all it was a wonderful experience.
After the wise men departed, I assumed the event was drawing to a typical ending. I was not prepared for the sudden appearance of mounted Roman soldiers. They burst into the crowd in front of us as screaming women snatched up their children and began running. The set went dark, and the narrator's voice was heard one last time. "A voice was heard in Ramah . . . Rachel weeping for her children." Then it really was over and we sat in stunned silence. Instead of wrapping up Christmas neatly, with anticipated and practiced images, I was confronted by a new Advent experience.
Decades later, that night lingers in my mind throughout the Christmas season. Looking back during Advent, I am amazed again by the Incarnation. However, an honest look at the world around me reveals much weeping. Looking forward, with hope, I know a day is coming when the weeping will be no more. In the meantime, I am challenged anew to speak that hope to a dark and weeping world.