Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bethlehem Marketplace

Here we are another week closer to Christmas and we have yet to do anything "Christmassy." Sure, we've read some advent stories to Elijah, but that is about it. In my previous post, I wrote about the State Farm Christmas party being cancelled, so we haven't had a chance to really do something to celebrate the holiday. That all changed last night . . .

We went to the "Bethlehem Marketplace" at Elmbrook Church. I heard about it at my chiropractor's office and thought it sounded interesting, so I talked Dan into going. We bundled up the kids and tried to get there for an early viewing, since the website boasted 40,000 visitors last year. We didn't want to wait in that line!

It was a great experience. We entered into a small theater and watched about a 15 minute video about Bethlehem and it's history. Then we entered the "time tunnel" (adults need to have an active imagination for this to be fun) where a voice reminded us to hold our children's hands less they be transported to a century not their own! Walking out of the time tunnel brought us into Bethlehem, circa first century. There were goats, cows, a camel, and what appeared to be a llama. Elijah liked this. He got to pet a baby goat and a chicken. I often wonder if he connects the live, feathered fowl with the meat we so often eat at dinner. He didn't seem to make the connection last night. After petting the animals there was an industrial sized GermX bottle with which to disinfect ourselves. Somehow I doubt they had that in Christ's time.

After registering for the census, we were given some shekels to spend and a warning to watch out for the theives in the marketplace and the Roman guards. We saw guards, never encountered the theives, and only saw one beggar. She was getting money from another child, so we walked past. We encountered stone cutters, where Elijah bartered for a polished stone for 1 shekel. There were olive oil merchants, dyers, dancers, craftsmen and a wonderful spice shop where we acquired some frankensence and myrrh. We burnt it this morning; let's just say that our candles are more cleanburning today then they were back then.

The trip through time ended at a humble inn, where in the stable area was the virgin Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. This is the part of the trip Elijah was most excited about. I only hope he understands that it wasn't the REAL baby Jesus. Either way, it was worth the $9 we spent, and it seemed an accurate representation of what Biblical Bethlehem might have been like.

There were cookies, coffee and ice water to enjoy afterwards, and we talked with a few representatives from the church. A couple was really interested in Alli, since they need 42 Baby Jesus' this year and they are still looking to fill all the spots. I gave them my number, but on further reflection, I'm not sure Alli, as active as she is these days, would make a gentle, quiet Jesus. We'll see. If she does participate, then I get to be Mary! Apparently it makes the most sense to have the baby's mother be the one to hold them for an extended period of time. We didn't hear if that would mean Dan had to be Joseph.

A few side notes for those of you thinking about going: no strollers allowed, although wheelchairs are, so be prepared to hold your littlest ones if this applies to you. Also, we left with extra shekels. So don't be cheap, spend what they give you! We left with a bead necklace, shiny rock, and a piece of papyrus, and ate 2 pieces of bread with honey and still had left over money. I didn't get any bread and now I regret it! Also, the line for the 7:30 show was really long, so the earlier you go, the better.

I can't promise we will go every year, but as the kids get older I can see it being a great teaching tool. And I finally feel like we did something "Chirstmassy!"


Gretchen said...

Oh, I am so JEALOUS! That sounds like a BLAST! What a beautiful way to focus on Jesus. Have you seen the Nativity movie yet?

Sarah said...

I am so glad to hear your assessment of it.....we are planning on going for our first time, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. It sounds as cool as my friend made it out to be (but she doesn't have kids, so I didnt' know about the kid-friendliness of it.) Glad you got to do something "Christmas-sy"--we went and cut down our tree yesterday, so that was the start of the Christmas season in our household.

Rachel said...

We went on Saturday & it IS fun. I think it's so great for the kids to actually be able to SEE the nativity. They're such concrete thinkers & they see Santa everywhere this time of year. Matthew's a bit confused, though. He now thinks the Christ was born at Elmbrook Church :O)