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Colonial Heights Presbyterian invites visitors to ‘A Night in Bethlehem’

Deborah Peterson • Dec 3, 2019 at 4:30 PM

It happened one unforgettable night over 2,000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary had trudged through rough terrain on donkey and on foot, making the 100-mile trip from Nazareth to Joseph’s hometown, Bethlehem. It was not the best time for them to travel, as Mary was close to delivering her first child. But the emperor Caesar Augustus had demanded that a census be taken, so they finally arrived at the small town.

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like on the night that Jesus was born?

Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church invites the community to relive that night in Bethlehem in a unique portrayal of the Christmas story. Experience the event as it comes to life and watch as a live nativity unfolds around you as you visit the town.

The event director, Karen Dale, is one of 40 people involved in the production for “A Night in Bethlehem” at the Colonial Heights church.

“People will come into the sanctuary where we welcome them to the church and tell them that we’re going to take them back 2,000 years in time to the town of Bethlehem on the very night that Jesus was born,” she said.

Guests will then go to the gym, which has been transformed into the ancient, historic town of Bethlehem. After being greeted by a Roman soldier, people can wander around the town visiting one of the many booths.

“There will be food booths with snacks, and a photo booth where visitors can have a family or group photo made, which we mail to them in a Christmas card the next day,” Karen explained. There will also be several craft booths where people can enjoy making Christmas crafts.

While the town is bustling with activity, a trumpet will periodically sound, announcing the arrival of part of the nativity scene. After the scene is over, the town will continue the activities until the next scene unfolds. “About every eight minutes, a new scene unfolds. It’s very interactive,” said Karen. The final scene portrays the arrival of Jesus, which Karen described as a very moving experience. “We were surprised the first year we did it at how moved we were, and we even knew what was coming. We were all in tears,” she said.

The church performed “A Night in Bethlehem” five years ago and it was a great success. Over 700 people attended then. So, the church decided to bring it back again this year. While it is a huge undertaking and a lot of work, Karen said it is well worth it.

“We do this as a free gift to the community and it sets the tone for what Christmas is really about,” Karen said. The familiar Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was written by Phillips Brooks following a personal pilgrimage to Bethlehem in 1865. The church invites the community to also make the pilgrimage to ‘Bethlehem’ in this unforgettable event.

“A Night in Bethlehem” will be held on Dec. 5 and 6 with shows at 6 and 7 nightly. Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church is located at 213 Colonial Heights Road in Kingsport. The event is free and appropriate for all ages.