Hopewell Baptist Church is presenting the ninth annual Back to Bethlehem experience Dec. 1 to 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. As many as 25,000 visitors are expected this year.
When visitors come to Back to Bethlehem, they will have an opportunity to interactively experience the sights and sounds of a small, bustling first-century Judean town.
“We would like our community to experience the joy of the very first Christmas as they travel back in time and visit the ancient city of Bethlehem on the miraculous day our Savior was born,” Pam Davis said.
More than 300 people each night will participate each night including adults and children. On some nights, baby Jesus is represented by a real baby.
The interactive display will also feature live animals in the city including camels, horses, donkey, llamas, chickens, goats, and sheep.
Those attending are able to visit the marketplace and sample the wares of the merchants, stop by the storyteller and listen to stories of the Jewish people, pet the animals, mingle with the townspeople and visit with the families outside their homes.
But they are warned to stay clear of the Roman soldiers and the tax collector.
“They will hear whispers that something miraculous is happening in the stable behind the inn, and they will discover what the miracle is as they reach the stable, for there, surrounded by animals, the angel, wisemen, Mary and Joseph, is Immanuel — God With Us,” Davis said.
But the story doesn’t end there. Once visitors leave the nativity, they are taken to a New Testament storyteller who talks about Jesus’ ministry on earth and leads them down the path to experience the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the end of their journey, visitors are invited into the fellowship tent to enjoy hot chocolate and homemade cookies.
The event started in the front parking lot of the church in 2003 and has now moved to the land behind the church allowing more room for the city, organizers said.
“Construction begins in October where we work every Saturday until the first day of Back to Bethlehem. The week before also requires the finishing touches so some of our members take the week off from work so they can assist with these activities,” Davis said.
During the eight years the church has held Back to Bethlehem more than 100,000 people have enjoyed traveling back in time to ancient Bethlehem, she said.
“Back to Bethlehem is Hopewell’s Christmas gift to the community,” Davis said.
For information, call (770) 345-5723 or visit backtobethlehem.com.