Christmas is quickly approaching! We see those darn reminders all over TV, in the stores, and the twinkling eyes of our children who anticipate Santa’s visit. As we pen our lists, look for sales and plan family gatherings; an entire city is being built on less than an acre of land. Bethlehem Revisited is an annual event hosted by First United Methodist Church in Coral Springs, Florida. For 5 nights a year, you have the opportunity to walk through a living, breathing recreation of the city of Bethlehem on the night of Christs’ birth.
When I first started this website, I planned to write about Bethlehem Revisited because I only recently learned about it’s existence even though I’ve lived in Coral Springs for 3o years. Since my discovery, it has become my absolute favorite family Christmas activity. Visiting quickly became an annual family tradition; and now volunteering in the basket shop with my daughter is my highlight of the season. So of course, I am compelled to shout it from the rooftops. I hope you will share it with others also.
Bethlehem Revisited is not just for Christians. History and drama buffs alike wait outside the town walls to enjoy the walk back in time. Since it’s the time period before Christ, those of the Jewish faith have also reveled in the masterpiece. Everyone, regardless of religious affiliation is welcome and encouraged to attend.
Over 2000 years ago Joseph and Mary along with thousands of others traveled to the town of Bethlehem to sign the census required by Caesar. The town was completely overrun with travelers. With no room at the Inn for incredibly pregnant Mary who’s about to pop and probably ready to choke her husband. She ends up giving birth in a manger among the livestock. We all know the story. But have you ever walked through it? If you have then I’m certain you already have plans to revisit. If you haven’t, then I urge you to make it happen this year.
Bethlehem Revisited is lit by torches and candles and secured by roman guards. About a hundred volunteers are cloaked in period clothing and versed in the culture. Add in the music, and scattered livestock and you have a the intoxicating ambiance that brings roughly 10,000 visitors each year. Each shop is a learning experience and each shop owner has something interesting to share. The experience is not lost on the little ones. There are plenty of opportunities to touch and taste and have a hands on learning experience. If it were just a tad less interesting I might have photos of my kiddo’s face.
The amazing volunteers at First United Methodist Church in Coral Springs spend months preparing for your visit. Building walls, hanging doors, stocking shelves, recruiting and training 100’s of volunteers to host a living, breathing 2000 year old city. The amazingly talented and passionate leaders Janet & Mike Brockway, Jim Endres and Christine Bazos lead and support volunteers who spent thousands of hours producing this village on church grounds.
“My children grew up in Bethlehem,” Janet Brockway, Event Director, said. “Many of our members have children who have grown up being a part of Bethlehem Revisited. For us, this is the real Christmas. I remember my son Joe, telling me on the last night of the show that it felt like Christmas was all over for him, and all that was left was Santa. This has been a wonderful teaching tool; the Bible comes to life here.”
Tips for Visiting Bethlehem Revisited With Kids
Lines can be long. I recommend grabbing dinner and parking yourself in line about 30 minutes before the gates open. Let your kiddos eat their nuggets while Roman soldiers pass alongside, keeping the town in order. There are points of interest while the line progresses. They let large batches of people in at a time so the line tends to move pretty quickly. Strollers are helpful and welcome in line, but will be waiting for you just outside the gate when your visit is complete. Bjorn and wrap style carriers are super helpful for infants. Young writers will enjoy the opportunity to sign their name in the scroll census. Adults and kids have hands on access at just about every shop. Most popular stations are pottery, perfumery, bakery, honey, Amos House and following wandering chickens. Seriously. Mamas must stop to chat with the midwives. Unless you carry the accurate currency you won’t be able to make purchases in town (Uhmm . . . you do not). Pack water and a snack for whichever of you kids decided to chase his brother/sister/neighbor/cousin instead of eating his dinner. Did I mention that all of this is completely free? Any donations made are dispersed into a variety of service projects that go right back to the community.
Once you tour through the marketplace, sample some honey, perfume, get chased by a goat, and pretend not to know the strange lady in the basket shop that looks kinda familiar. You will arrive at the Inn, and just like Joseph and Mary you will be turned away. Next we enter the manger scene. Every year I know this is coming. Still, every year I catch my breath and a lump forms in the back of my throat. The final scene is a living nativity with a real baby. I know this is not the actual baby Jesus. In fact, I’ve known some of the families that have volunteered as the holy family, but every single time I fight back the tears. Maybe it’s the ambiance, the lighting, the costumes, the music. Maybe it’s the miracle of life resting so beautifully, and so peacefully. Maybe it’s the entire journey through Bethlehem Revisited that brings me so close to the actual experience. The reminder of how much easier life is now. Or even the peek into village life 2000 years ago when everything was so much more communal. A reminder of when a village really did raise a child. Maybe it’s just all of it. Every year I leave Bethlehem with watery eyes and a lighter heart, and a reminder of what is real, what this season is truly about.
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Bethlehem Revisited Event Dates December 2016:
- Friday 9th 7pm-9pm
- Saturday 10th 6pm-9pm
- Sunday 11th 6pm-9pm
- Monday 12th 7pm-9pm
- Tuesday 13th 7pm-9pm
For more information, visit Bethlehem Revisited
First United Methodist Church, Coral Springs Florida
8650 West Sample Road, Coral Springs, Florida 33065
First Church is located on the south side of Sample Road, West of Riverside Drive and just East of University Drive.
For Directions click here.