Mount Gilead to present interactive Christmas experiencecomment (0)
November 28, 2013
By Maggie Walsh
Mia Jones said she wants her two sons growing up knowing what Christmas is all about.
Even though they’re young, she wants them to know it’s “more than just Santa and presents,” she said.
That’s why she took them in 2012 to Walk Thru Bethlehem at Mount Gilead Baptist Church, Dothan — along with more than 4,800 other people.
The major theatrical production offers adults and kids alike the opportunity to take steps into the past and walk through Jesus’ hometown on the night of His birth.
Walk Thru Bethlehem, set for Dec. 11–15, begins when a robed woman leads a group to the first setting — a small, dimly lit room with greenery and simple wooden benches — where they are greeted with “shalom” by other women in robes and head coverings.
Here each group meets its guide, who sets the stage for the night, explaining life in Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth.
Then each group boards a hay-laden trailer that transports them across a large parking lot to the expansive outer walls of Bethlehem. After an altercation with Roman centurions outside the city walls, the group is admitted into the city.
With every step taken, visitors delve deeper into the night when Jesus was born.
Rows of booths with enthusiastic merchants and artisans snake throughout the city. Each booth contains a different good or service, from hand-woven baskets to pottery to a carpenter building crosses.
The guide takes her group from booth to booth, looking for a place for the group members to stay for the night while speaking with various city-dwellers.
With every exchange, group members are told the Christmas story through short accounts intermixed with bartering and testimonies about life in everyday Bethlehem.
After witnessing a miraculous event, the group is taken to the outer wall of the city where “Samuel” offers shelter as he shares how Jesus “bore God’s wrath” for us.
“The manger leads us to the cross, and we pray that the cross leads you to eternal life,” he tells the group.
By the time visitors reach the outer gate of Bethlehem, they have experienced the birth of Jesus Christ firsthand, as well as learning about Jesus’ crucifixion, before concluding their evening in the Family Life Center with refreshments.
Danny Williams, Mount Gilead Baptist worship pastor and director of Walk Thru Bethlehem, got the idea for the event from Shirley Hills Baptist Church, Warner Robbins, Ga.
He crossed paths with someone from Shirley Hills Baptist at a LifeWay Choir Conference in Marlboro, Mass., and the seed was planted in Williams’ mind. When he got home, he approached Mount Gilead’s committees and key leaders about the plausibility of such an event.
Four years of serious prayer and preparation later, the first Walk Thru Bethlehem was held.
“Taking on a huge project like this is all about finding right leaders,” Williams said.
Twelve committee chairmen coordinate and direct about 300 people within the church to make this event a reality.
Williams said he sees it as a powerful tool for evangelism.
“Lost people aren’t coming to our churches anymore, so we’ve got to find a way to get the gospel to them,” Williams said.
Mount Gilead has committed to holding the event for 10 consecutive years. December 2013 will be its fourth event.
For more information or to preregister, visit http://mgbcdothan.com/ministries/walk-thru-bethlehem.