“Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.” – Luke 1:78-79
Each December (for the past 20 years) during the first weekend of the month, WFPC has hosted Walk Through Bethlehem. The event/gift/outreach is our Christmas card to the community, our calling as a church to set the coming busyness and mad rush of the “holiday season” in a more appropriate context.
Walk Through Bethlehem is our opportunity to tell the simple, compelling, transformational story of Jesus. We do our best to transport visitors back in time so they can experience a kind of pilgrimage, not as spectators but actual participants in the story.
We take this seriously, and I believe one reason people flock to our church is because we spend the rest of the year taking the gospel seriously too, reaching out with love and care and encouragement and mercy. The message resonates because we are a church that practices what we preach.
We have seen numbers grow: from 2,000, to 2,500, to 3,000 – then the past few years receiving more than 4,000 pilgrims over three nights. We share the good news, and we watch people leave our campus that much closer to Jesus, with a deeper sense of the presence of God.
- As of this writing (10:00 Monday morning), the Walk Through Bethlehem video has garnered more than 1,500 views!
When it became apparent we would not be able to host this year, the team prayed hard, used their imaginations, got creative, got adventurous, and thanked God Wake Forest Presbyterian Church had already hired an AV guy with the production skills to pull off a movie-version of the experience thousands of people look forward to every year.
And, believe it or not, this 15-minute video took almost as much work and almost as many support people to stage as the usual on-campus experience.
I guess you can thank the pandemic for this, but not only is Rebekah now a televangelist, some of the congregation are now movie-stars too!
My role – and I can count about six times I avoided the cutting-room floor – was that of guide. Shooting took place over several days, but I stayed around between two of my scenes to take some “stills” during some of the filming.
The team asked me to refrain from sharing any of these images until the video had first been released; that was Sunday evening, so today I am happy to offer a small glimpse of life on the set.
Filming is hard work! Each scene is shot multiple times and from multiple angles. Some people wait around and do great performances but don’t make the final cut. Lights, cameras, and other equipment are heavy and awkward. Set construction is no small job. Also, it is hard for people to be “natural” in the presence of cameras, so directing and coaching are a must. Plus there is so much more that goes into something like this…
The bottom line, however, is the power of the story. The birth and life of Jesus are a matter of historical fact and record. The powerful effect of his teaching became multiplied soon after his death and resurrection (“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1). The story just will not go away, and there is one important reason it remains.
The reason it will not go away is that the story is ongoing. We do not simply retell the story of Jesus, we are – here in 2020 – participants in The Greatest Story Ever Told. It should be known as The Greatest Story Ever Lived.
This is what we want to achieve as we ask you to watch, to share, and then to live.
To live! “To live” – one of my favorite versions of the Peter Pan story concludes – “is the greatest adventure of all!”
First, the video (must watch!). Then, below, a few of my stills from the set:
Christmas life message photography The Church The Manger The Meaning the message The Messiah Christmas2020 the greatest story ever told video blog Wake Forest Presbyterian Church Walk Through Bethlehem
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.