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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Country Christmas

Joyce Sasse - Think of the many teachings we can share with our children and with the new comers in our midst because the Christmas story is set within the background of a rural culture.

When I stood on the edge of the “shepherds’ field” (located near Bethlehem in my trip to Israel), tears came to my eyes. I was reminded that the heaven-delivered announcement was for everyday people as they went about their everyday work. These were people for whom the land was their livelihood. “And heaven and nature sing!”

Recall how the over-worked innkeeper recognized Mary and Joseph’s need for a place where the baby could be safely delivered in a warm space. To this day members of our communities, despite their busy agendas, stop what they are doing to care for each other in times of need. They tend to a grieving family, an abandoned parent, or those left homeless because of flood or fire. Such cooperation indicates a healthy community.

Furthermore, community members repeatedly recognize those in pain. The Christmas story includes warnings that the child’s life was endangered. The family had to escape to Egypt because evil jealous people threatened to kill Jesus. They hid the family, helped them escape – and welcomed their return years later. Recognizing pain and offering support is a rural cultural attribute.

The story also talks about accepting “others”. Years ago, when we set up a “Bethlehem Market” scenario in the local Community Hall, one man wanted to hang “the” star. “Which one?” I asked. “A Jewish star? Or a Christian star?” Jesus’ family were Jewish. Our feast is inclusive: of the new daughter-in-law, of children from a blended family, of outsiders who would otherwise be alone. Diversity makes our community stronger.

As you tell the Christmas story, remember to highlight the rural values that lie at the very heart of our celebration.

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