On a small city block in a small Texas town, winds a sidewalk through a walled yard with crude replicas of buildings, markets and sights of a small village near Jerusalem from 2,000 years ago. This is the home to a Christmas tradition – Bethlehem Revisited!
Each year for the evenings of two weekends in December, this small city block is opened up in Waxahachie, TX for visitors to experience the birthplace of the Christ child. Each of the crude structures is converted into a shop or home with craftsmen busy at work such as someone making rope or carding wool or a man making and demonstrating wooden flutes. There is a place for people to pay taxes as was decreed by Cesar Augustus and an inn that happened to have a stable nearby.
As you arrive at “Bethlehem” you are greeted by shepherds who are tending their flock. You then enter the city gates guarded by Roman centurions and walk the streets of the town. Throughout the night, you can experience the events of that one night from 2,010 years ago that changed the course of history.
A couple enters the city to pay their taxes with the woman on a donkey. After you watch them visit the tax collector you follow them to the inn where they inquire about a room. The inn keeper informs them there is no vacancy but there could be room in the stable. The couple is led there and a baby is born.
As I watched this reenactment, I was touched, not by what was being portrayed but by the children who were asking their parents if that was Mary and Jesus and by the parents who told their children of the baby who would be our Redeemer and the star that would lead others to him.
The shepherds who watched their sheep by night by the city gates are told by an angel the news of the holy birth. You can follow them through the streets as they seek out the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. When they reach the family in the stable, they rejoice at the glad tidings and go throughout the city proclaiming the news.
The grandest of these journeys is that of the three wise men from the east who followed the star to find the new-born king as foretold by prophesy. You can argue that they didn’t actually visit that night. However, they have been associated with the Christmas story for many, many years. These three men begin their journey in “Jerusalem” (a stage across the street) where they meet Herod and seek the new king. Their camels are then led through “Bethlehem” and they follow.
It is pretty cool seeing these large mammals strutting down the streets with throngs of people all around. When the wise men enter the city, they stop at various places seeking the baby and eventually find him. When they arrive, they too rejoice at the glad tidings then one by one they present their gifts to the holy child.
Even with the not completely accurate costumes, the plywood buildings painted to look like the old world and angels that appear as projected flashes of light, the true spirit of Christmas was ever-present in the cool evening air. The fact that people volunteer to recreate this each year, that throngs visit to experience the night Jesus was born, and that it even happens in today’s holiday neutral, secular society warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes at points throughout the evening.
What a wonderful adventure that has been happening for years just a couple of hours south of where I grew up. For your Christmas and holiday adventures, don’t just watch the endless hours of movies on Hallmark Channel or ABC Family, but get out and experience something more meaningful and lasting. I’m sure there is something going on within a couple of hours of where you will be spending your holidays.
Now go out and have a Christmas adventure and remember the reason for the season!