THE JOURNEY TO THE STABLE
For a number of years now , my local church has been seeking new ways to connect with the youngsters of our parish. One way in which we do that is to invite them to join us, from their schools, to come and visit us at Christmas and to go on a journey with us.
When they arrive, they are invited to sit down with the Story Teller who asks them which school they represent, which members of staff they have with them, whether there are any parents with them. She then introduces them to various members of the team who will help them on their journey.
My son , Michael for instance, takes the part of a small Group Leader.
The Story teller questions the children as to what prepartions they made for their journey to the church, how had they arrived, what had they done before they left school etc. She then goes on to tell them the story of Mary and Joseph’s Journey and explains they will be meeting various people on their journey who will help them to get an idea of the firs Christmas journey. She explains, with the help of nativity crib figures the characters in the story.
The children are now sent off in small groups to make their journeys – en route they will meet a shepherd, a king, the grumpy innkeepers wife, Mary, Joseph and the baby , who will all tell the story from their perspective and they will have the chance to put their names on a star which is put on a wall at the back of church so that over the week, a host of stars remembering who have attended grows – by the time all schools have visited there will be getting on for 400 or so names. They will also make a Bookmark to taske away as a reminder of the occasion.
The Shepherd tells how the angels came and told him and his friends to go to Bethlehem, and a king explains how he and his colleagues followed the star.
Now they move on to talk to the Innkeeper’s wife, who when they arrive is decidedly grumpy at being disturbed from her work, when she is doing all she can to bring in money to pay the taxes imposed by the Romans. However, when enticed by the children by their offer of a few pennies, she agrees to tell them the story of the strangers who had arrived at the inn a couple of days earlier, and who, in their urgent need of shelter had stayed in the stable where the young woman had given birth to her baby. The few minutes rest to tell her story obviously put the Innkeeper’s wife in a better frame of mind.
Having finished here the children move off down to the stable to find Mary, Joseph and the baby, we have been lucky enough to have real live babies for all our Journey’s and this does add so much wonder to the children’s visits. They love to sing their lullabies to the babies.
At this point , the children all go off to do their crafts before reassembling with the Story Teller, who asks them to tell her which has been there favourite part of the Journey. Most often it is quite rightly the visit to the baby. But then they are asked a deeper question, do they feel that there any of the characters they think is not important to the story, and though they may start off with thinking maybe the donkey or the ass or even Joseph is not so important, they soon come to see that the donkey and Joseph give important support to Mary, if it wan’t for the Cow who gave up his manger and the Innkeeper’s wife for letting them use the stable where would the baby have been born? The shepherds and kings show that Christ was born for all people whether rich or poor, whatever nationality. So each character played his part.
At the end of the visit, we like to think that the children leave with a little more wonder for having ‘lived’ the experience of the first Christmas – certainly, we have some lovely letters come back from them, and accompanying staff say it has meant a lot to them too. And for those of us who take part it is a humbling experience to be able to join together in camaraderie, to give our time to use this way to show the magic of The Christmas Story, but a wonderful way to start our Christmas Journey for the year.
Wishing you all a Blessed and Holy Christmas.