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Journey to Bethlehem underway
A pretend Roman soldier keeps a watchful eye on the movement of those who make the recreated Journey to Bethlehem which Mary and Joseph took on that first Christmas event. The event runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Journey to Bethlehem, the interactive re-enactment of Joseph and Mary's pilgrimage to Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ child at Grace Community Church, is midway through its run with this weekend being the final time to catch the event.

The 19th annual traditional Christmas venue kicked off last week and will repeat itself at 7 p.m. nightly on Thursday, Dec. 10, Friday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 12.

The grounds of the rural church located at 3754 Service Road east of Mitchell Road, serve as a perfect backdrop to recreate the journey.

Gates open at 5 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, with tours starting at 7 p.m. The gate closes at 9 p.m. Saturday tours start at 6 p.m. and close at 9 p.m. There is no admission charge but donations are accepted. This is a family event and children are encouraged to attend with adults.

The event takes groups of 30 on a recreated historic pilgrimage of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to pay taxes since everyone had to return to one's hometown for the census. The couple lived in Nazareth before the birth of the Christ child and had to travel some 80 miles. The couple would have had to endure hard conditions in their estimated 10 miles of travel per day on their way to the birth. Along the way travelers would often encounter thieves, suspicious characters, swindlers and others.

The journey will start at a look at a map and speaking with the mapmaker who will direct the journey. Along the way visitors will meet with other families who are journeying to their birthplace. Shepherds share a magnificent story about a baby that has been born in Bethlehem, and meet up with the three wise men who also are seeking this child. The journey will include encounters with Roman soldiers, both on horseback and in patrol teams, who order the "Jews" to comply with Roman law.

The mysterious appearance of an angel who announces the birth of Christ, and a visit to the Bethlehem marketplace will quicken the spirit and fill the senses. The culmination of the trip finds visitors in the inn where there is no room for the family to sleep, and finally the stable where the Christ child, Mary and Joseph, are resting in solitude.

Since weather is the unknown factor, the church has a policy of offering to people in lines or tents the option of going through with the tour if light rains sprinkle on Ceres. But normally if it looks like rain or high winds for the evening the event is cancelled.

Visitors are advised that the one-mile of uneven walking surface of the field make wheelchair navigation difficult. The tour lasts about 45 minutes. Warm clothing is recommended.

For more information on Journey, visit or call Bob Blackburn at 525-8524.