Papanui, New Zealand
New Zealand is currently in the media spotlight for serving as the backdrop for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film series. In December last year, however, a far more important story was being played out in the country—the story of the birth of Jesus.
The biggest question that kept running through my head was, ‘How do we get Christ back into Christmas in Christchurch?’
Christchurch hosted its first Road to Bethlehem in 2013, with approximately 1000 people turning up to experience the interactive outdoor drama over three nights at the local Adventist school.
The event featured all the hallmarks of a typical Road to Bethlehem production, including authentic sets and costumes, live animals, and a real baby playing the role of Jesus.
The manger scene at the inaugural Road to Bethlehem production in Christchurch.
Production manager Debra Beckett said one of the main reasons for bringing Road to Bethlehem to Christchurch was the ever-growing secularisation of Christmas.
“Christ appears less and less in Christmas each year,” said Miss Beckett, who first saw the Road to Bethlehem production in Tauranga in 2012. “The biggest question that kept running through my head was, ‘How do we get Christ back into Christmas in Christchurch?’”
With a support team of 20 local people, and help from Road to Bethlehem organisers from Tauranga and Australia, the production came together in less than a year.
More than 1000 people attended the event at Christchurch Adventist School over three nights.
Miss Beckett says the event was tremendously significant for the people of Christchurch as they continue to rebuild following the devastating earthquakes of 2011, which killed 185 people and damaged much of the city.
“People are still looking for a reason to hope,” said Miss Beckett, whose house was damaged in the earthquakes and is still undergoing repairs, “and there is no better story of hope than the birth of Jesus.”
“God gave me a vision, we got a committee, and the rest was a faith-walk.”
The Road to Bethlehem production was also held at Tauranga Adventist School for a fifth consecutive year. The popular outdoor drama was also held in four locations in Australia—Brisbane (Qld), Erina (NSW), Livingston (WA) and Nunawading (Vic).
In Victoria, the event draws approximately 15,000 people every year. Despite costs in the range of $AU70,000 to host the production, Road to Bethlehem does not charge for entry—the event is a gift to the community.
A father and daughter walk through the marketplace.
This year marks the 20thanniversary of the production. Road to Bethlehem organisers have confirmed a seventh production will take place at Northwest Christian School in Tasmania in 2014.
For event dates and more information, visit <www.roadtobethlehem.org>.