Saturday, December 4, 2010

"The Gift" Ward Christmas Party

What a day today was.  Stayed up late last night finishing stuff for the party today since I didn't get a whole lot done during the day because of the migraine.  Slept until about 8:30 and then got up to a yummy biscuits and gravy breakfast made by Melon Man.  So good.  Ate and visited for a bit, watched some tv with him.  He went off to bed, I got ready to head over to the church to help set up for tonight.  Then, I loaded up the truck with all the present boxes, bows, laptop, program binder, more ribbon in case it was needed, and whatever else I needed to take.

I got over to the church about 5 minutes after we were supposed to be there and Lori's dad and I were the only ones there.  Lori then came with the keys and we got to work.  Luckily, the Elders Quorum had already been there and set up all the tables and chairs and Lori had already taken all her crates with supplies and such over to the church earlier that morning.  So, we got to work decorating, getting things ready for the meal, and such.  Marisol and Leslie arrived a little bit later and joined in helping. 

I was disappointed that we decided not to do the lights and the blue, silver, and white Chinese lanterns across the gym because it would have made this picture so much better and would have flowed with the blue gift boxes, but oh well...we just decided not to a couple of days before.  Lori didn't feel well today anyway and it would have just made her more nervous to have to worry about getting those done in time so it was fine.

We sent Lori home to lay down for an hour or so since she was sick and I stayed and made sure the projector and laptop worked together, etc.  I ran through the program to make sure everything was ready and good and just as I was finishing it and starting the video, a few people walked in.  I was embarassed that they'd heard me running through the program, but oh well.

Soon, I took off and ran home to change clothes, pretty myself up, grab my camera, and make my salad, etc.  The prettying never happened.  I never even got to change out of my clothes from earlier in the day.  Oh well.  I raced back to the church and soon David and Linda arrived.  I was very happy that they came!  Melon Man soon arrived too and he and David were cracking Linda and me up so bad that I thought she was going to wet herself!

Soon, it was time for our program, but our shepherd hadn't arrived yet!  I was getting a little nervous, but I knew I could call on his dad to fill the spot if I had to.  Luckily, he soon arrived and we were all ready to go.  I had found this program online but had tweaked it in a number of places to fit our beliefs, use actual Bible language, and to smooth out a few rough spots.  The people I chose to play these parts ended up being just the most perfect people for the parts.  I was so happy.  They all did a great job with feeling and everything - just like I wanted!  Yeah, the sound and the video at the end were kind of wonky, but it all worked out in the end and people seemed to like it.  So, I wish I could remember where I got the bones of this program, but I can't so I can't give partial credit where credit is due.  But, I do remember where I got the video - Foundation Arts.  So, without further adieu...I present "The Gift."

Stage Area:  Empty at first.  All characters line up upon taking the stage.  Each person gives their lines from the same place on stage, while holding a (flameless) candle (if available), moving off and on in the darkness. It is important that each transition line be smooth and continuous. Away in the Manager and then Silent Night will be playing softly in the background. After the reading, a video presentation will be shown.  (We have no stage in our cultural hall because it's a small ward building so under one of the spotlights in the cultural hall, we placed the stepstool from the Primary Room.  The characters would step up on this stool so they could be seen better from the back of the room)

Characters: Narrator, Mary, Joseph, Innkeeper, Shepherd, Wiseman, each in period costume.

(Instrumental Away in a Manger and Silent Night)


It’s often said that Christmas is all about giving - and so we think of the excitement and joy on a child’s face as they unwrap a gift, or a grandparent welcoming family to their home for Christmas dinner, or giving a special gift to someone you love; but giving at Christmas means so much more than that. It started more than 2,000 years ago, when God carried out His plan which He had promised - even thousands of years before that. God’s plan was to give the World a gift – and it wasn’t just any gift - because God loved us so much, He gave us.... His only Begotten Son. For generations people had waited for this gift - a Savior who would provide the way for man to come back to God. So how did God give this amazing gift? Well, it all started with a young woman named Mary who was living in Nazareth.



Living in Nazareth usually meant living a quiet life - not that I was unhappy mind you. I loved the hills and the fields of Galilee. I had grown up there and when I had come of age I was engaged to be married to Joseph. Joseph was a strong but gentle man from a family who were descendants of King David himself. It was while I was engaged to Joseph that the Angel appeared to me. Oh don’t get me wrong if I sound calm about the whole thing - at the time I was terrified. I can’t describe it other than to say that a bright figure appeared before me. One second I was alone, the next, the angel was in front of me. I fell to the ground.... I could feel my whole body shaking but was comforted as soon as I heard the angel’s voice. “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women,” the Angel said... I had no idea what that meant, and the angel must have been able to tell that I was still shaking. “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus,” he said. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

I did not understand how this would come to pass and I asked of the angel, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” The angel answered and said unto me, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Could it be true? Could it really be happening to me? But, what would Joseph think? Would he still marry me? Would he help bring up the child? Could the Son of God also be the son of a carpenter?



The son of a carpenter - that’s what I am. My family’s been in the carpentry business for generations. We weren’t wealthy by any means, but we were respected and were proud of our heritage. It was one afternoon after finishing the day’s work that I learned that Mary believed she was pregnant. I have to admit I was shocked, but Mary was a beautiful, honest young woman, and I couldn’t bear for anything to happen to her because of the situation and so..... well I decided to call the wedding off - not to make any fuss of it mind you, just a quiet word to my parents - at least I had planned to before..... well.... before I saw the angel. I know it sounds incredible, but I saw it with my own eyes.

I was asleep when all of a sudden, brightness - like the bursting of a sunrise, only with the strength of the midday sun - appeared to me in the middle of my dream. The angel knew my name and called to me “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I awoke with vivid recollections of the dream - every detail, every word was as real as the day itself. What else could I do? I told Mary about the dream and we agreed that the engagement was to go ahead. ...... It was about that time that the census was decreed. The Romans wanted to count us all, which meant making the long trip back to Bethlehem - The City of David. It’s not a pleasant journey at the best of times, least of all for a pregnant woman! Mary would sometimes walk or ride the donkey which we were grateful for, but what relief we felt as we saw Bethlehem in the distance, for I knew that Mary would soon give birth.



I knew that Mary would soon give birth as soon as I saw her. My first reaction was to turn them away. With so many people coming to Bethlehem, how they thought they could get a room I’ll never know. I guess that with all the hustle and bustle of the day - people passing in and out, money changing hands, meals and drink to prepare, I was hardly in the mood to help another person out...But...well, I can’t explain it, there was something about the couple that made me want to help them. I didn’t have much.... and I told them so...“There’s the stable out in the back,” I said, “take it or leave it.” Well, they took it, for what it was worth, and settled in for the night. It was later that same night...and I remember because it was an unusually quiet night in Bethlehem – especially considering the number of guests we had that night - that I heard the cry of a baby - not the crying of a sad or upset child, but the cry that you hear as a newborn takes its first breath of air and opens its eyes. That was all I heard - just a short cry, and...well...I couldn’t help poking my head around the back to see if everything was alright.

I remember, there they were, amongst the cattle and donkeys with the little one nestled in the feeding box - just the right size it was! I was glad to have been able to give them the stable instead of turning them away, as it was dark in Bethlehem that night.



It was dark in Bethlehem that night...still and dark, and very quiet. Well, quiet except for the occasional bleating of a lamb looking for its mother to wriggle up against. And as usual I was with the other shepherds, looking after the sheep. With so many people coming into Bethlehem,

I guess our master didn’t want to lose any lambs to a hungry passerby! I had watched many travelers that evening, one after another, tired and weary from their journey, making their way into the town. Sometimes I’m glad I’m just a shepherd - there’s not much to worry about except the sheep - At least not until that night! We were all lying near a tree, ready to settle in for the night, when...well, I can’t describe it. A brilliant flash of light - enough to blind us for a few seconds - appeared in the sky. It was radiating all around, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cowered like a small child...when suddenly an angel spoke – “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” We may have been lowly shepherds, but even we had heard of the promised Messiah. As if that wasn’t enough to terrify us when suddenly there appeared... I don’t know...maybe hundreds of angels - it was brighter than we could bear, but as I shaded my eyes I could clearly hear the words they sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." As soon as the Angels vanished we didn’t just walk, we ran into the town to see if what we heard was true...and as we came to the stable we slowed down, and marveled at the sight of a baby, lying in a manger, and wrapped in strips of cloth. We told the child’s parents what the angels had told us.... and while they were also surprised they seemed to somehow understand it. For us it was incredible...for we’re just lowly shepherds...why God chose to tell us I’ll never know, but as we returned to the fields we sang songs to the Lord with a passion and joy that we had never had before - Imagine that, a King born in Bethlehem.



A King born in Bethlehem - that’s what the prophets had written, so when we saw the sign of the new star in the horizon we knew that the promised one had come. Almost at once we prepared our animals and headed westward toward the star. As we travelled along in the day, we would look forward to the reassurance of the star appearing each night and we shared our thoughts and expectations of what we would find at the end of our journey. We had packed gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh and longed for the day when we could give them to the new king. When we arrived in Jerusalem we were at once spotted as foreigners and were brought to King Herod. We were certain that he would know of the whereabouts of the new-born king. But it seemed that Herod was unaware...even uncomfortable at the knowledge of this new king, although as he sent us on to Bethlehem he requested that we let him know of the child’s whereabouts so he could come and worship him also. We felt, however, that we were not to return to King Herod with our news and continued on our way. We were glad to see the star in the sky again that night. We followed it to Bethlehem and came to the house which it was above...and that was when we saw him - the child and his mother together, and we knew that this was the new king. We knelt before the child, and gave him the gifts which we had been carrying all that journey - praising God for the arrival of the new king in exactly the way and the place that the prophets had often said.



It is often said that Christmas is all about giving, after all God gave the greatest gift of all. But just as the purpose of a Christmas gift is not fulfilled until it has been accepted by the person you give it to, so too, Christmas should also be about receiving. Because God loved us so much, He gave us His only Begotten Son - that whosoever receives him will have everlasting life. If you don’t receive God’s gift of Jesus Christ then the true meaning of Christmas won’t be complete. We pray that this Christmas you won’t only give, but that you will receive…the greatest gift ever given.



We hope that this special Christmas program has helped you feel the love of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ at the beginning of this Christmas season and that you will continue to feel the love of their gift throughout the remainder of this month, in fact, throughout the entire year. As a special reminder of this night, we have a special “gift” for each family. We ask that one adult member of each family come forward after the closing prayer to receive their family’s gift. At that time, we also invite all of the children to go to the Relief Society room for a special activity while the adults help clean up and prepare the cultural hall for church tomorrow. Thank you so much for joining us tonight and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Our closing prayer will be by Brother Strickland.

The kids got to make a star ornament with all the fun crafty, glittery stuff they wanted.  They had a blast - and, it kept them from running all over while we cleaned up.  Marisol was so great with the kids!

After it was over we passed out the "Christmas Nail" (which Marisol and Linda helped me put together on Friday).  People were so fantastic at helping clean up.  What took a couple hours to put up, was literally taken down and put away within 15 minutes.  The cleaning up of the food, doing dishes, and packing the vehicles took a bit longer, but there were two men who did all the dishes and a bunch of other men helped sweep, vacuum, etc..  How grateful we were for that!  It was awesome! 

This was our Activity Committee's last activity.  We are being released next month due to the new policy from the church regarding activities.  In one way, we were so glad that it was over.  In another way, it was kind of a sad moment.  The compliments from ward members, though, made all the hard work and long hours so worth it!  One calling down, four left.

1 comment:

Linda Lu said...

You did an awesome job! Thanks for inviting us to join you.

Love ya!