We were staying at a kibbutz on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Outside the window of our room, the hillside Shepherd’s Field was bathed in moonlight. It was upon that field that the angel descended to herald the birth of Jesus. Bethlehem was visible beyond the crest of the next hill.
I stood there and imagined Gabriel Ramirez, as Jesus, singing Bethlehem I Come from the musical BETHLEHEM, which I had written, and we had staged three years earlier. And there it was out there in the moonlight. This was the actual place where David had tended the flock, the place where angel visited the shepherds, the Magi traveled over that same hill on their way to pay homage to the newborn Christ. It was surreal to actually be there where these amazing things had occurred.
Pondering that, the reality that I possess the unimaginable gift of salvation because Jesus chose to be born in that place, and to die in that place…in my place…overwhelmed me. It still does.
This is the first time we’ve staged BETHLEHEM since we traveled to Israel. When I first heard Chris Smith, who so beautifully portrays Jesus in the new production, stand high above the stage and sing Bethlehem I Come, it took me immediately back to that night, looking out over that hillside.
Anyone who visits Israel will tell you that there is a sense of being almost disconnected from time there. You feel as though the layers of centuries could be turned back like translucent pages of an ancient book, and when you leave, you take a glimmer of that with you. Or perhaps it is that you never completely leave.
We can only hope to bring something of that to the productions at Ragtown. I believe we do. Actually, I believe God does. This particular story is so special. It is the overwhelming reality of God’s love for His Son, and for us. It is the astounding realization that Jesus chose to leave Heaven to be born into the world, knowing that He would be sacrificed to reconcile us to God. And it is the abiding faithfulness of the nurturing Holy Spirit who bound Him to God while Jesus was living as a man, and binds us to the Father and the Son today as a result of that astonishing love. These are all woven throughout the story and the songs.
It is more than the story of His birth. BETHLEHEM is the story of why Jesus was born. It is one your whole family should see. I so hope you will.