Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:13-14
Let’s go to Bethlehem!
Where to begin? This weekend was such a spectacular explosion of life and joy around our church: celebrating the story; telling the story; being the story.
And the story was – is – the amazing narrative of God breaking in through time and space and becoming a child, born into the day to day struggle that has always defined the human challenge.
WALK THROUGH BETHLEHEM: Each year at our church – Wake Forest Presbyterian – we gift our community with the opportunity to enter the story by walking into the CLC, joining one of the tribes of Israel, and taking a surprisingly realistic journey, through time and into Bethlehem, the City of David.
Over the years “Walk Through Bethlehem” (WTB) has become quite the local “thing.” This time we broke all records and welcomed over 3,300 visitors in an effort that – depending on how deep you peel away the layers – involves anywhere from 250-350 volunteers.
We call the event our Christmas Card to Wake Forest, and it is placed right at the beginning of December in order to help steer the holiday conversation, and the Christmas experience, in the direction of Jesus.
WTB turns out to be a huge help, because it is so easy to get so caught up in the busyness, the shopping, the preparations, the school events, and all the other distractions, to the extent that we crowd out the simple, beautiful, radically uncommercial message at the heart of it all.
So people lined up, waited, chatted with greeters, and “registered for the census;” they were assigned to a tribe, served cider, chocolate, and cookies, and gathered for an introductory talk with a guide from their tribe. Then they were guided along their journey to – and through – Bethlehem.
Along the way the visitors interacted with prophets, villagers, real (friendly) animals, (unfriendly) Roman soldiers, tax collectors, a loud marketplace, guards, Herod, shepherds, travelers, angels, the innkeeper, and – finally – Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus.
It’s impossible to experience Walk Through Bethlehem and not come away with a deeper, more realistic, understanding of the events that marked the birth of Christ.
And it is impossible to encounter the story, once again, without being challenged to invite the light of the world to take up residence in our own hearts.
So Sunday morning we gather to celebrate the story; Walk Through Bethlehem is one of the many creative ways we tell the story; then the greatest challenge – the greatest opportunity – is to actually be the story. Our lives, day to day, can be another chapter in the Greatest Story Ever Told.
This is why Jesus came; it is why he still comes today.
Enjoy you own, virtual, Walk through Bethlehem via these images.