Journey to Bethlehem From Hermiston to Bethlehem in Twenty Minutes
Five area Adventist churches worked together to produce the second annual Journey to Bethlehem experience. Anchor Point, Hermiston, Heppner, Irrigon and Hermiston Spanish churches enjoyed the opportunity to work together and create memories, experiences and opportunities. Many non members participated as well. The first year, 2008, saw over 800 community members guided through the paths and streets of the recreated surrounding landscape and City of Christ’s birth. In spite of freezing temperatures and snow, more than 1230 pilgrims were guided through the Journey this year. Often guides would note a change in the tenor of a group as it progressed along the Journey. Some who would at first be laughing and poking fun at the “pretending” of the guides and their assistants and the details they were hearing and seeing, would by the end of the Journey be expressing reverence and appreciation of the wonder of the incarnation of God in the tiny baby form of Jesus Christ.
A guide, identified as the group’s cousin, would inform them of the distance, time and purpose for the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A stop by Herod’s palace gave them a glimpse of wise men from the East inquiring of Herod about a new King their studies have told of. Nearing the city, the group warms up in Gamaliel’s tent and receives insight from his study of Isaiah about what exactly this Messiah will be. Passing through the city one encounters a cacophony of sounds from vendors, animals and travelers all passing through the torch-lit streets, doing business or pressing for a sale.
Stopping at the inn proves futile, as the innkeeper informs them that “even the stables are full you fools!” By the time one passes between the chicken and sheep vendors and nears the tax collector’s tent, the family that is celebrating their harvest offers a ray of “hope in these hard times” along with an invitation to join their celebration, which is rudely interrupted by a Roman soldier ordering everyone to “line up to pay your taxes!” The serious and tough encounter with the tax collector left some small children terrified and a few adults upset.
Quickly passing on, the group saw shepherds watching their flocks near a campfire. Suddenly, high above the trail, bright angels appear announcing to the shepherds the Messiah has been born! Eagerly the group follows the shepherds on down the path and around the corner to a roughly built stable. Guides heard many whisper “Is that a real baby?” This was a gentle, reverent and thoughtful moment as long as Joseph’s donkey stood quietly by and resisted braying at the donkey across town. The journey took the group of travelers to one more stop—a stark and lonely cross, where the guide implored the travelers never to forget what they have seen and experienced and to tell others that “Messiah, our Savior has been born!”
Though no fees were charged, the beggar outside the city gates often found his basket had several dollars in it by the end of the night. The Journey is a wonderful opportunity to gift your community with a greater knowledge of the details of prophecy, fulfillment, circumstances, culture and history surrounding the amazing birth of Jesus Christ. Shalom.