• ISRAEL \ Feb 07, 2013
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    A Special Thank You: From Nazareth to Bethlehem and Back
A Special Thank You: From Nazareth to Bethlehem and Back

Nearly 2000 years ago, Mary and Joseph made the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill the orders of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus to be counted in a Census of the entire Roman world.  Joseph, being of the house and lineage of David, was obliged to take his fully pregnant wife and proceed by foot, or perhaps on a donkey or camel, on a long Christmas journey of approximately 80-100 miles, depending on the rout.  The journey would have taken several days—perhaps a week to 10 days, as compared today to a journey of 2-3 hours. As they undertook this long journey they would have certainly considered what was needed for the trip in the way of food, clothing, and money.  For safety, it is probable that they would have caravanned in the company of others making the same journey through dangerous roads and paths into the hill country of Judea.

What exactly were Mary and Joseph’s thoughts as they traveled—Apprehension . . .   Expectation . . . Excitement . . . Wonder. . .  Confidence. . . Joy. . . Hope? They knew Mary was in the last month of pregnancy and they knew that her baby was destined to be born in Bethlehem.  Some unusual visitations had already occurred in their lives. Perhaps from scripture reading, they knew the child would be laid in a manger.  They knew his name would be called Jesus as this was announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel. They knew he would be the Son of God, Immanuel—God with us! They were to be the channels of God’s blessing to the whole world.  They would bring God’s son into the world—a baby named Jesus who would be the Savior of all humanity.  This was a lot to comprehend, more than they could fathom with their limited knowledge and finite minds.

A few weeks before Christmas 2012, the Nazareth Baptist School (NBS) located in Nazareth decided to give their students an opportunity to be Christ's hands and feet by offering themselves as a channel of blessing to minister to the poor in the Bethlehem area. The children did not physically travel as Mary and Joseph to bring their gifts, but their hearts and thoughts traveled to Bethlehem as they listened in reverence and awe to stories about the nativity-- the story of the shepherds and the wise men and the ultimate gift of the Christ child.  In anticipation, with joy and love, they put together Christmas packages in preparation for their transport via vans and school leaders to the modern day town of Bethlehem. Similar to every year, NBS held several activities for Christmas towards raising money to help the poor. Much thought and planning went into their project design resulting in classes holding kiosks and a mini bazaar for parents and students.  Revenue from these was used to help tens of needy families. Primary School classes bought toys and sweets for needy children in the West Bank.

The students at Nazareth Baptist School were thinking of others this past Christmas, just as God in Christ was thinking of all humanity when he sent his only son to be the Savior of the World. A few days before Christmas, the Shepherd Society offices in Bethlehem were bulging with all kinds of packages from Nazareth.  No, this was not the North Pole . . . this was Bethlehem, the birthplace of a King!  The Shepherd Society staff and volunteers began channeling the gifts from the Nazareth Baptist School to families that were hurting, hungry and hopeless.  The gifts consisting of food, clothing, toys and candy came at just the right time.  The families and their children were overjoyed to know that someone cared for them in their hour of need.  Many of the families had four or more children.  Some examples of appreciation from the recipients who received food as well as children's toys are as follows:

A widow with five children shared that her children particularly enjoyed receiving toys, as well as training suits which they wore immediately and did not want to take off.  The children truly felt the spirit of Christmas.  The mom explained to her children that people thought of them and cared.

In another family the parents exclaimed that they were as happy as their children.  Their daughter Joyce, one of six children,  was elated that her gift was a puzzle and her twin siblings, toddlers, were equally pleased with their toy TV's that could scroll for pictures.

A family with four children was likewise thrilled.  They felt the gifts they received were a grace from God and were grateful for the Nazareth connection.

Another family with four children, among them twin toddlers, were excited.  The older children hid their toys until their younger brothers slept. Among the gifts they received were children's game cards and Christmas wall decorations. Their daughter was delighted to have a kitchen set.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  .                                                                                                                                                       

Christmas was definitely brighter in the Bethlehem area in 2012 because someone cared, someone gave, and someone loved. The Shepherd Society sends the Nazareth Baptist School heartfelt greetings for a Happy New Year now and throughout 2013 and extends much appreciation and thanks to the principal, teachers, staff and students for thinking of Bethlehem during this past Christmas.