I don't have many photos from Christmas parties or family get-togethers this year. The truth is, I didn't even take my camera with me to many events....which is completely out of the ordinary for me.
So instead of blogging about parties and presents, I'll write about the event where I actually did take some photos....almost 1,000 to be exact.
Walk Thru Bethlehem is not something easily put into words. Many Christmases over the years I've seen or participated in Briarwood's Drive-Thru Nativity back home.....and that doesn't even come close to a good comparison.
It starts in the summer when volunteers start building--putting up walls, etc. They work every Saturday morning until December. The finished product is a 3 acre replica of the city of Bethlehem that took over 30, 000 man-hours to build. There are walls, buildings, gates--even electricity.
The entire church signs up for specific jobs--everything from acting, to cooking, to childcare for the workers. People learn lines and go to rehearsal months in advance.
When the Big Weekend arrives, people show up from all over the state. This year, over 8,000 people came, despite the fact that the first night was cancelled due to bad weather.
Actors in the city sign up for parts--shepherds, spice sellers, fish merchants, etc. and have three hour shifts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. That doesn't include the hours of practice and rehearsals and sewing costumes. This church LOVES this event and doesn't bat an eye at the commitment it requires.
One lady told me, "We've been doing this for all 13 years and it wouldn't be Christmas without Bethlehem." Grown children bring their families back for the weekend so that they can participate in this event. I was amazed at how much people love doing this...it's very much an essential part of Christmas for our church.
People come, register, and are assigned to a group number. They wait in the sanctuary for their group, many of them waiting up to 3 hours. So what do they do while they are waiting?
That's where my wonderful, amazing husband comes in. He is responsible for entertaining the masses and he did a GREAT job. He had some wonderful help too....and by the way, that's over 24 hours worth of music to plan and organize.
They bring in camels, doves, sheep, donkeys, wild birds, real fish, cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys.
Groups are led thru the city by a tour guide...they stop at every booth and dialog with every vendor, the story line leading the group everywhere from the tax collectors...
...to the Roman soldiers...
...to the spice sellers, weavers, fruit vendors, the temple...
...and eventually to the part that matters most.
It's an amazing experience and I am so thankful to have been able to photograph it...the whole thing was a photographers dream!
I was blown away by the time, energy, and commitment that the church dedicates to this event year after year.
And while most of the people that come thru have heard the Christmas story before, to the church, it's worth it, even if only 1 of the 8,000 came and understood the importance of that little baby in the manger for the first time.
Here's to many more Walk Thru Bethlehems! I'm already excited about next year.