Back to Bethlehem
‘Back to Bethlehem’ seemed a good introduction to the Christmas story. But then what’s new in this familiar story told annually at this time of the year. I was attracted by the thought of a sausage sizzle, onions cooked to perfection, fresh white bread and an assortment of sauces. My disappointment, when at last, bread in hand I selected my sausage, I was told “no onions”.
It’s the golf, I was told. The Presidents Cup had delayed the arrival of the onions. You can have onions with your second sausage.
As I attacked my sausage, I could hear a familiar sound coming from the church hall. I paused; it was beautiful. O Holy Night rang out in the late afternoon, two voices singing in harmony. I wandered across to find out who was singing. It was Grant and Jessica. “Just having a practice before the cast arrives for the play” said Grant.
“What play?” I asked. It’s called “This is Your Life” said Grant. Tonight, we are presenting a special addition of “This is Your Life” featuring Mike Munro. We have a cast of 13 people who are arriving soon, for the final rehearsal before tonight’s performance. We have been able to obtain the services of a super star to play the life of Jesus. He may be familiar to some in the audience.
The smell of cooked onions wafted across to where I sat under the old river red gum. Time for another sausage with onion this time, I thought, as I picked up a piece of bread, gathered up a sausage and with tool in hand, piled onions onto my sausage and bread.
I glanced up to see David(1) arrive with Barbara. Draped over his walker was his Richmond scarf. I watched as David(2) wandered over to David(1) and both became very animated in their conversation. All a bit strange I thought. I had not realised they knew each other. Amazing how a sausage sizzle brings people together. As I came nearer to their conversation, I heard those words “Richmond Football Club”. I wandered off to seek a conversation with another as Richmond was not my favourite club.
The people had gathered. They sat on plastic chairs sipping tea brought out by Elaine while deep in conversation under the old river gum. The cast for the play had arrived and were being fitted out with their costumes. Children played around the memorial garden. New friends were introduced, and old friends shared stories.
The noise coming from the church hall had gained in momentum. The call went out, “Everyone to find their way into the hall, as all is prepared”. Children were organised on cushions up the front, the adults taking up seats behind the children.
Rev Claire welcomed everyone. The Journey “Back to Bethlehem” began with a prayer. Claire handed over to Grant who introduced the play “This is your life”.
So began a wonderful play with a new slant on the Christmas Story. It told this much-loved story about an inn keeper called Barnes Stable (Jessica), the father, Joseph (Stewart) and Mary, (Lisa) and the donkey (Hallie) as they prepare for the birth of a baby in a manger surrounded by farm animals. There were the three wise men, (Amari, Jacinta and Zac) the shepherds (Kath, Tanya and Zac) guided by a star in the East. The play, written by Grant, projected humour into this much-loved story.
Dispersed across the play were well-known carols led by Grant on the keyboard and accompanied by Natalie and Jessica and the gathered crowd who sang with much enthusiasm.
James was on the computer providing the words on the TV screen. Such was the enthusiasm of Mike Munro (Grant) in introducing his guests that he strayed from his script. Carols were not sung when scripted. All was not lost as James manipulated the computer to send the right words at the right time for everyone to sing along. The noise was deafening.
There were many stars who returned for this one-off appearance. Joseph played by Stewart complained loudly that no one ever told him what was going on. The donkey (Hallie) made it clear she was not impressed when told she had to carry two people over 70 kilometres on unmade roads without water.
Kath, Tanya and Zac, disguised as a shepherd had to rush off with the shepherd’s crook in hand, when they realised their sheep were unattended. In the course of the evening there were many fine performances.
Perhaps the most notable appearance was that of Jesus (Bob H). His performance was quite outstanding. When speaking to Ruth while cleaning up, she appeared reluctant to support Bob’s remarkable performance. Something about “I wish his words reflected his actions”. Or something like that. As there was much background noise in the hall, this comment may be another example of fake news. This breaking story is being followed up for further comment.
The play concluded only when all the carols overlooked in the enthusiastic presentation of guests by Mike Munro were sung with great gusto by all gathered at Woodhouse Grove.
Rev Claire concluded “Back to Bethlehem” by thanking all who had been involved in the preparation and staging of the play. Those who had worked so hard to provide the sausage sizzle, the late arrival of the onions, the costumes, the play, and the music by Grant allowing us to be reminded again of the birth of Jesus.
Perhaps the last word should go to Jesus (Bob H) who, when asked by Mike Munro “What of the future” He responded;
“Well I told them that I would be back to check on everyone and that’s the truth. I just hope that people can keep following the message I sent to them and that good will, peace and love is not just saved for my birthday but is practised all year round. Remember me, but don’t forget what I stand for”.