By Laurie Jo Porter
As the rains begin I am reminded once again about how different this past year has been while living in Forks. Forks, is a small town of 3,200 and lies in the heart of the Olympic Peninsula’s rain forest sandwiched between sea and mountains. Most of my adult life I have lived in cities so I’ve been amazed at some of the differences my husband Tony and I have observed while living in this small town. Here are a few …
You know that you live in a small town when you stop by the local grocery store with a small list in hand and end up having six different conversations with people who know you by name.
You know that you live in a small town when every car or pickup driver waves to you on your early morning walk even though you are clueless as to who they are.
You know that you live in a small town when the hardware store up the road lends you a cordless drill to put on your new license plates for the car.
You know that you live in a small town when an office clerk knows you live in “the brown house” when you register with the water department.
You know that you live in a small town when your entertainment consists of counting how many fishing boats are coming into town during the salmon run in March.
You know that you live in a small town when there are more elk grazing at the airport than there are planes.
As my thoughts turn to Christmas and this Advent season, I’m reminded once again that Jesus the Messiah was born in a small town. Bethlehem was its name. In Hebrew it means “House of Bread” and in Arabic, “House of Meat.” Five miles south of Jerusalem the population of Bethlehem was smaller than Forks at the time of Jesus’ birth. But what else do we know about this small town?
We do know that the story in the book of Ruth takes place in and around the fields of Bethlehem. After Naomi leaves for Moab with her husband to escape a famine in Bethlehem she then returns as a widow with one of her daughters-in-law named Ruth. Ruth, also a widow, ends up picking up leftover grain in a field that Boaz owns. Boaz is a single man related to Ruth’s father-in-law and the rest is history. Boaz and Ruth marry and have a son named Jesse.
Then one day Hannah’s son Samuel is given a mission from God. “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” So off Samuel goes looking for this new king of Israel in the town of Bethlehem. After Samuel meets Jesse he is introduced to seven of his sons but the Lord reminds Samuel, “The LORD does not look at the things human beings look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
(I Samuel 16:1,7) So David, Jesse’s youngest son is called in from watching the sheep fold and is anointed as king. Thus the town of Bethlehem today is called the “City of David.”
Years later Joseph, who also was related to King David’s bloodline, was asked to take the 100-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register his name for a census that Caesar Augustus mandated when Mary was with child.
“And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Luke 2:3-5.
There are about six motels and several bed and breakfasts in Forks to accommodate the many tourists who visit Olympic National Park during the summer months with hunters and fisherman arriving in their individual peak seasons. I like looking at the vacancy or no vacancy signs whenever I enter the city limits. However it was different that one holy night when Mary said, “Joseph, it’s time.” And there was a no vacancy sign at the inn.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6-7.
But instead the story does not end there. It continues to the shepherds living in the fields near Bethlehem where angels appear and shout, “GLORY, your King has come!” And later on the Magi tromp into town from afar following one large bright STAR to worship this KING of KINGS. And then Herod, after being outwitted by the Magi, sends a troop of warriors to kill off this newborn King. But the holy child is moved to Egypt until it is safe to return.
A friend of mine once said, “There is often more happening in a small town than one realizes.” And such is the case in Bethlehem.
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the LORD.”
O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our LORD Emmanuel!
By Phillips Brooks, 1874
Laurie Jo Porter lives in Forks with her husband Tony. She works at Peninsula College Forks Extension Site. She enjoys hiking, birdwatching, wildflower identification and art.