Sounding Joy: It’s Real!

News | December 7, 2021

About fifteen years ago, when my daughters were little and we lived in the northern suburbs of Chicago, I was the director of Vacation Bible School at our church. Our theme one year was “Bethlehem Village,” and it was one of my favorite VBS themes ever. The idea behind Bethlehem Village was to transport the kids back to biblical times and to immerse them in the land where Jesus was born. We turned fellowship hall into a market where kids could make mosaic boxes, they could ground wheat into flour, and they could make their own perfume out of spices and oil. We busted into the costume closet from the depths of the church basement and pulled out every neutral-striped tunic, robe, head covering, and rope belt we could find to outfit all the kids and adults. The centerpiece of the market was a “well” we had built out of large landscape bricks, where people could gather and where the daily Bible story was to unfold.

Every morning, I had volunteer actors walk into the village market in Bethlehem and act out the daily Bible story. I recruited my friend Debbie to play the role of Mary, and she really looked the part with her long brown hair, her blue head covering and robe, and her pregnant belly. She wandered around Bethlehem Village with Joseph, looking for a place to stay. The kids were enthralled with the story each day and looked forward to hearing what would happen next.

On the final morning of VBS, I recruited a different actress to play Mary. This was my friend Donna, who resembled Debbie with long brown hair and a blue robe and head covering, but with one major difference: Debbie had a newborn baby. When Debbie/Mary quietly walked into Bethlehem Village that morning of VBS, the kids stared in awe. They followed her through the market and watched as she sat down at the well. When she pulled the blanket back and introduced the kids to baby Jesus, their eyes were as big as saucers. And then one little girl shouted, “It’s REAL! The Bible is REAL! I thought it was just a story, but it’s REAL!”

I will never forget the joy in that sweet girl’s voice as she witnessed the true gift of Christmas right there in fellowship hall. I ask you to take time to reflect on times in your life when the Bible has come to life for you, and when you felt the joy of a miracle happening right before your eyes. Look around today while you are out walking, driving, working, or running errands and notice: It’s REAL!  The Bible is REAL!

Note: You probably noticed that this photo is not from VBS, but it is my daughter Hannah dressed as Mary in our Christmas program at Bethany Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Cathy Anderson has lived in various towns in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  She currently lives in Bettendorf with her husband Kirk and their youngest daughter, Lauren.  Cathy can usually be found teaching elementary school in Moline, FaceTiming with her college daughters Megan and Hannah, or walking her dog, Augie.

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