December 16, 2010

Area Residents to Have Unique Opportunity to Make Journey to Bethlehem

The final weekend before Christmas usually means hustle and bustle as folks get ready for the biggest holiday of the year, shopping for gifts, preparing for parties and planning travel to be with loved ones.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday will offer area residents another way to prepare for the celebration, by traveling back in time to witness firsthand the reason for the season.

The Lighthouse of Faith Church hasn't invented a time machine, but may have the next best thing for folks wanting to witness what it may have been like when Christ was born. Guests will be able to make the Journey to Bethlehem at the site of the new Lighthouse of Faith church, just west of Memphis.

"Our vision is to take people back 2,000 years and bring them into an encounter with what Mary and Joseph experienced," said Pastor Steve Jarvis. "You will experience Roman soldiers and have them treat you just as they would have treated people. You will experience beggars, thieves, horses, sheep, camels, donkeys and other animals. They will experience about everything that Mary and Joseph might have. At least as much as we can do."

To do that, the church has enlisted the aid of other area worship centers as well as numerous volunteers from across the community and beyond. In all a cast of more than 130 has been amassed to allow visitors to make the Journey to Bethlehem.

"It is truly a community production," stated Jarvis. "There will be shepherds, experiences with angelic hosts along the way, the City of Bethlehem, its markets, tax collectors, the inn's and much, much more."

The journey will begin at the current home of the Lighthouse of Faith, on the east side of the Memphis City Square.

"It is very important that people not come to the site of the journey," Jarvis said. "We are starting at the church. They will be put into family groups, given their papers and other necessary items and be seated where they will experience live music by the band No Worries and a short preparatory video.

Then they will be led out by family groups to the bus. We will run groups to the site approximately every 20 minutes."

The Journey to Bethlehem will be offered free of charge on Friday, December 17 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Groups will be bused from the church to the site of the Journey to Bethlehem. The vast majority of guests will be walking through the experience with a guide, which is being called their "family leader". Sunday from 4 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. the event will host a special needs night. If people don't think they can walk through the experience, they are asked to come during that time and they will go through the journey by horse drawn wagon.

The journey will take approximately 30 minutes from when the guests get on the bus at the church to the time they get back on the bus after the journey is completed. Guests will be bused back to The Place Youth Center for hospitality including hot chocolate, kettle corn, cookies and fellowship.

Organizers have spent the past two months building from scratch a trail that will take guests through the city of Bethlehem, to the inn and all of the places in between.

"One of the awesome things about our church family is that we all share this awesome vision of bringing this world to Christ" stated Jarvis. "We have very dedicated people that see that vision and are willing to do unusual things like this journey and Heaven's Gates Hell's Flames, and who knows what else, to break out of the mold and out of our four walls and go into the world where people are. It's been an awesome ride."

The church family is hoping that area residents will brave the weather this weekend to come and experience that ride with them.

"The whole experience will be interactive," Jarvis said. "Our desire is to bring the guests into it, so they don't just leave there saying, 'Oh that was nice, now let's go have dinner'. I want people to have a real encounter with The real Christmas and what it's about and encounter Christ. I want them leaving there asking, 'What have I been doing?' 'Why?', 'Who is this Christ?' and truly seek for answers. My hope is that it is impactful on so many levels."

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