Journey to Bethlehem represents community and Christmas birth

Journey to Bethlehem represents community and Christmas birth

Image Credit: Dave Mast

Anyone who has watched the movie, “Field of Dreams,” probably can recall the final scene, where night falls over the cornfield that is home to a baseball diamond that is lit in a very special way.

In that scene the headlights of hordes of visitors wishing to come see the miraculous field that brought old-time baseball to life are lined up for miles.

On the evenings of Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4 in Walnut Creek, the headlights cascading through the night sky and making the long line of lights along state Route 39 and County Road 114 weren’t to see a baseball field but rather the final scenes of the Journey to Bethlehem. From high atop the hill at The Farm in Walnut Creek, it took on a very similar look to that final movie scene.

Journey to Bethlehem began more than a decade ago, born as an idea to present the biblical Christmas story of Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus. Local actors play the roles of the various scenes including Mary and Joseph at the inn, the shepherds watching over their flocks by night, the heavenly angels singing, and the wrath of King Herod, which were all in town at Walnut Creek. Scenes at The Barn included the three kings who traveled to see this new king and Mary and Joseph gazing upon the newborn baby Jesus as the angels sang from high above them.

Along the journey, thousands of luminaries dotted the sidewalks and roads, serving as a light to follow the path to the culmination of the story. Included in the evening were free kettle corn, roasted marshmallows, apple juice and freshly baked maple rolls at The Farm.

The event was created as a way to peel away all of the presents, Christmas decorations and Santa Claus stories and focus on the traditional meaning behind Christmas, that being the nativity story of the birth of Jesus.

For the members of the Walnut Creek Business Association, it isn’t about bringing people into town to shop and spend but rather a way they can say thank you to those who support them and share the faith of the local community.

WCBA member Tim Schlabach stood outside of King Herod’s throne room, where visitors left the angry king and were rewarded with kettle corn and juice for their suffering.

“This has grown into a really big, special event for many people,” Schlabach said. “It’s fun to watch because you watch people come through and get a real sense of how much it means to them. We hear so many people come through and talk to one another or show their gratitude because they get a lot out of this. It definitely is not something you’ll find a lot of other places.”

Schlabach said it takes a great community effort from a lot of people to make the event a reality, and the Walnut Creek community and surrounding area goes all out to create an inspirational presentation.

He said each stop takes a lot of the chore of finding people and creating their own scene, noting The Farm takes a massive role. He said many of the people involved have been doing this since its inception, so it has become a smooth-running machine.

Coming off a year in which they were forced to cancel the event due to COVID, Schlabach said they expected a big turnout. They got it, with traffic jamming the roads and people everywhere throughout town and at The Farm. He said a lot of people had circled this event on their calendar, having not been able to attend last year.

He also said The Journey truly represents the community and Holmes County in terms of faith.

“This says a lot about what our area is all about,” Schlabach said. “We love it because of that.”

After visiting in town, folks hopped in their vehicles and made the trek from town to The Farm in Walnut Creek, where the luminaria along both roads led to a solitary star above the large barn, which beckoned visitors to come and witness the birth of Jesus as he lay in the manger, Mary and Joseph keeping watch, and angels singing heavenly praises to the newborn king.

For those who have witnessed the scene in the barn, with all of the live animals moseying around and hay wagons hauling people to the birth scene, it is the coup de gras. For those who were visiting the event for the first time, undoubtedly the scene, which included Christmas carols, was something to cherish.

“That’s an amazing scene,” said Cindy Carducci from Cambridge, who had visited the event before. “It’s breathtaking to walk into that huge barn with it all lit up and see Mary and Joseph watching baby Jesus and then to watch the angels singing their praises high above. It’s a really touching way to portray the story, and it brings it to life in a new way.”

That is exactly the type of response the members of WCBA wanted to hear when they created Journey to Bethlehem many years ago.