Word of the Week: GOSPEL
This past weekend Bethel tried something new. With the realities of the pandemic, it was already clear many months ago that the traditional Children’s Christmas Program at Bethel would not be possible. So our creative and hard-working Children, Youth, and Family ministry team started to brainstorm possibilities for our children and families to tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Thus was born the event that came to fruition this past weekend in the Bethel parking lot—The Drive-Thru Nativity.
The Children’s Christmas Programs at Bethel have traditionally told the story of Jesus’ birth with characters in the story coming to life as the narrative is presented through the voices of children. Interspersed in the storytelling are songs of the Christmas Good News of Jesus’ birth. In its purest form this is the Gospel. Gospel meaning, “the good news of Jesus Christ.” Christmas begins the story of this good news with our Savior’s unlikely arrival in a rude environment among animals, with less than five-star accommodations for his mother and father, and a manger for a crib.
This past Sunday afternoon for a little over an hour, a parking lot served as the host of an event that told the Christmas Gospel via narration by children’s voices, characters coming to life in vignettes throughout the parking lot, and even live animals bringing an element of the realities of that first Christmas— chickens, sheep, llamas, and a donkey! (Of note, llamas were likely not at the first Christmas, but I LOVED that they served to represent Minnesota camels in the tableau of the Wise Men at the end of the drive-thru Nativity!) It was a fantastic event and if you missed it you can view and listen to it HERE. Many thanks to all the volunteers as well as Julie Allhiser, Susan Larson, and Kari Tollefson who made this event such a success. I am told there were more than 250 carloads of eager participants that drove through the Nativity. Ears and eyes filled with the wonder of Christmas!
Who could have imagined this a year ago? And yet, on this Christmas, we are reminded of how the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, continues to break through into our lives and into the places where we may least expect. There is no place that Jesus cannot go, and he is truly with us in all times and circumstances.
As we prepare for a Christmas like no other, I’m mindful of how our parking lot has been the place where we have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, the good news, all through this time of pandemic. Wednesday and recently added Sunday Drive-In Worship with Holy Communion have been critical to our being fed and nourished by God’s grace in this challenging time. While a stable seems an unlikely place for good news to arrive, so too does a parking lot! And yet, think of how the Bethel parking lot has been a gift to Bethel members and friends in these months. It has served as host, through a radio signal, to open hearts ready to tune into and hear the good news proclaimed at a Drive-In worship service. Add to this, an opportunity to “taste” this good news through bread and wine, the sacrament, Christ’s own self being given “for you”!
Christmas Eve worship services with Holy Communion will be in the parking lot at 3 and 4:30 pm and at 10 pm there will be a candlelight drive-in worship. The forecast is for less than hospitable temperatures and there are many aspects of this service that will be unique and may or may not go as smoothly as we hope. Yet, it is the Good News that will continue to be a hospitable and welcoming Word to us this Christmas. And through the sacrament of Holy Communion, there will be a taste of this promise that will be even better than all the treats we savor in this season. This is the heart of Christmas after all, that sweet and everlasting promise that Jesus is born for you. This is always Good News!
Graced by the Gospel,
*Please note that Bethel also has a very special online Christmas Eve worship service you can watch at any point on Christmas Eve or after via our website. It will feature outstanding soloists, special guests leading worship, and a Children’s Word and sermon. We will also Livestream a Christmas Day worship at 10 am that will also be available at any point following on our website, bethellutheran.org/worshipvideo