Changes unveiled for interactive Bethlehem

December 7, 2013 8:29:49 PM



Unwrap the real "gift" of Christmas by stepping back some 2,000 years into the village of Bethlehem, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 13-15, from 6 to 8 p.m., as First Baptist Church in Columbus presents "First Christmas" at a new location -- Brickerton on Military Road. 


Teaming up with the Shops at Brickerton, members of First Baptist Church will stage the sights, sounds and events surrounding the Christmas Story, the birth of Jesus Christ. Visitors will be able to see an historic Bethlehem marketplace with 13 shops, a home, a synagogue, an inn and the nativity -- complete with live animals and outdoor drama scenes. Roman soldiers on horses, shopkeepers and a Rabbi teaching children will provide an interactive experience for village guests.  


Maps, marked with informational codes, will be provided to direct village visitors. They can maximize their experience by the path they choose: either participating fully at each of the 16 staged stops, or minimizing their trip with a quick walk-through. 


Sondra Dowdle, artistic director for "First Christmas," said, "We are told to go into the world and to take Jesus to the marketplace. During his ministry, Jesus was out where the people were. With this presentation, all walls of the church are down and people will be able to see Jesus. Visitors will be able to choose their own pathway to Christ." 


According to Dowdle, "It is our hope that this Christmas experience will challenge participants to reflect on their personal situations -- on their respective pathways in life. Visitors can wander through the village and pick and choose what they want to see just as they can choose whether or not they believe the baby Jesus was born in a manger. We hope participants individually reflect on such things as: Who are the shepherds today? Are we shepherds? Do I seek Jesus as the shepherds did?" 




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Judy Livingston, who is affectionately known "mayor of Bethlehem," has continued to enhance sets and props in the village and has added a typical Bethlehem home. "It's amazing to see it all coming together in our new location. Our church's commitment to this ministry has continued to grow through the years. It is so humbling to realize how the real village of Bethlehem changed what we're doing today and how we live." 


Randy McCall has chaired the village construction along with David Gatewood. This is the 11th presentation of the village of Bethlehem in 13 years. "Randy has been extremely meticulous in the village set-up and has helped arrange it so visitor traffic will flow as efficiently as possible," said Livingston. 


Bill Walker, vice president at Brickyard Properties, invited First Baptist Church to use the Brickerton location for the "First Christmas" production, offering more space for the Bethlehem village and more accessibility for visitors.  


"We are pleased to host this Christmas event at Brickerton and about providing this Christmas experience to the community," said Walker. "The shop owners have helped with many aspects -- from ideas to set-up. They are so supportive of this occasion to put the focus on 'Christ' in Christmas."  


Beans 'n Cream will serve hot chocolate and The Corner Bakery will provide cookies each of the three nights of "First Christmas" to guests. Angels will appear on the roof of the Wingate Hotel and an 8-foot tall, lighted star will shine atop a nearby crane. In addition, carolers will perform each night, adding to the celebration. 


Preparations for "First Christmas" have been ongoing for eight months. "It is so exciting to see how this production has evolved over the past 13 years. However, this year represents our most ambitious effort yet. There are numerous changes, including the move to Brickerton. We appreciate all Bill Walker and the Brickerton shops have done to support this endeavor," said Diane Gatewood, overall chairperson. 


Parking areas will be clearly marked. Cars may use the main Brickerton entrance on Military Road, near the Highway 82 Bypass, or enter the road behind Langford's Furniture Store, off Bluecutt Road. 


The event has been made possible through the collective efforts of some 400 volunteers and will feature a cast of approximately 250 people.