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Harvester Brings Journey To Bethlehem to Life

By Nick Ponche

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Members of the Harvester Christian Church portray Mary and Joseph watching over baby Jesus. They mark the end of a trail filled with shepherds, travelers, and Roman soldiers.

A sea of people shuffled towards the doors of Harvester Christian Church on the weekends of Dec. 1-2, 8-9 from 5:30-9 p.m. for their annual Christmas event. The first sunday 4,478 visitors found Journey to Bethlehem worth the time, energy, and resources to attend.

A live reenactment of the very first Christmas began once all the visitors received their various bible pseudonyms on a slip of paper. They were then greeted with a friendly “Shalom” meaning “peace be with you.”

“I say Shalom about a thousand times,” shepherd Nathan Rhomberg said, “that I even said [Shalom] at school once.”

The “families” were then invited to sit and listen to the christmas music and message while waiting for their “names” to be called.

“I like the music because it reminded me of Casting Crowns,”  senior Megan Bammann who was visiting for the first time since she was little said. “It sounded rockish and I liked it.”

Once guests leave the sanctuary, they were considered bona fide travelers. They split into groups of “families” and traverse the long road ahead. First, they were met by overbearing Roman Centurions. They glared and shouted “keep quiet” and “no laughing” while checking each travelers paperwork. They demand to know the “destination” that the “family” was traveling to.

Receiving a “move along” from a disgruntled soldier, the travelers headed down the dark trails lighted by small lamps on each side. The “family” encountered many other campsites. They viewed Israelites cooking dinner over blazing fires, scribes translating the Bible, and wise men following the star bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Departing from the magi, shepherds were seen in their encampment keeping watch over their sheep. Shepherd Nathan asked about the visitors travels when suddenly shining angels appeared.

“Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace good will towards men,” angel Abigail Hoffman said. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Upon seeing the angels, the shepherds rejoiced leaving for Bethlehem and so did the “family.” Crowded into a small room, the travelers were then stopped by soldiers to pay taxes. They got their slip of paper stamped signifying the payment. The travelers are then let out into a bustling marketplace with vendors selling fruits, bread, and animals.

“I liked the marketplace because I got to pet a chicken,” Megan said. “It was so cute.”

Tambourine playing, dancing, and singing went on next as the “family” paraded around a center table decorated with tall candles. Travelers were then quietly led outside and into the stable. Mary sat holding Jesus wrapped in cloths with Joseph kneeled beside her.

“It never gets old,” Megan said. “No matter how many times you hear the story, it always brings back hope.”

Greeted by smiling ladies and 3,000 dozen homemade cookies, the last stop of Journey to Bethlehem was reached. With free hot chocolate and cookie in hand, travelers speak of their night. Wished farewell by carolers harmonizing “We wish you a Merry Christmas.”

“If you can’t go to Journey to Bethlehem,” senior and pianist during the opening Maggie Wilson said, “then just go to some Christmas event because I think the birth of Christ should be prominent during the season.”

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