We Get to See Jesus Tonight!
By Gary McLain
Eighteen degrees! It’s a dark cold night, but there is a bright star in the sky leading people to Bethlehem—Bend Adventist Church’s Journey to Bethlehem, that is. The star leading you to the event is over twenty feet tall, made up of thousands of tiny lights that let you know you’re in the right place.
Bend Adventist Church was looking for a way to interact and rub shoulders with their community. Five years ago they started building a small Bethlehem scene, with twelve venders in the journey, erected in the church’s parking lot. That first year was particularly cold, at close to twenty degrees below zero, but they continued to share Jesus’ story. Now they have a permanent Bethlehem village built on their property that they keep adding to and improving every year.
As you walk through the Journey in the dark, you pass by candlelit vendor shops. A potter spins a bowl while a bread maker kneads bread, as a bit of smoke wafts by from a nearby fire where passers by can warm themselves. Sheep and goats wander by while you stop to watch a woman weaving or a blacksmith making a horseshoe. The smells of cooking and fresh bread heighten your senses as you journey back in time to relive the story of Jesus’ birth over 2,000 years ago.
The cast has dressed warmly with hand and foot warmers stuffed close to their skin.Their period costumes help set the scene as more than 150 cast members serve in telling their friends who pass by about Jesus and his love. About fifty of the cast members are from other church denominations in the community and want to be a part of telling this wonderful story about Jesus coming to this earth as a baby.
A small child is bouncing up and down as her family checks in at the front lobby of the church. She exclaims very excitedly, “We get to see Jesus tonight!”
A 6-year-old has just experienced seeing the Baby Jesus in Mary’s arms with Joseph close by in the backdrop of a stable. At the next scene is the cross at the end of the journey. The young boy exclaims, “That baby actually dies on the cross?” The guide takes some extra time to explain a little more about Jesus our Savior.
This event has brought not only the community to this event, but has also brought the Bend church closer together. They have numerous work bees they do as a church family to prepare for this event, such as making 8,600 homemade cookies to give out at the end of the journey in the warm fellowship hall along with 4,500 hot drinks. This warming area at the end gives the pastor and some of the staff time to interact with those who have come on the journey that evening, before they head home.
Every year the staff hear of people saying, “I have never heard the real story of Jesus before.” This is what makes it all worth the time and effort of enduring 70 MPH winds, snow, and subzero weather, to share this wonderful story. It has also given the church a much clearer vision of their mission statement in a practical way—Making and becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus.
Local TV news channel Central Oregon Daily News coverage of Bend Adventist Church’s Journey to Bethlehem.
Bend Adventist Church website — Journey to Bethlehem
Bend Adventist Church — Journey to Bethlehem Photo Album - You should be able to pull a photo or two from this if you would like.