More than a thousand people were recently at Mountain View Adventist College (Doonside, NSW) for the school’s inaugural Road to Bethlehem program. For many, it was an opportunity “to go back in time” and contemplate the events that led up to the birth of Jesus.
Interactive dramatic tours were conducted throughout the two-day event, allowing visitors to experience walking down a busy street in Jerusalem, hearing Caesar’s decree, going to King Herod’s palace, following the shepherds and the Wise Men on their journey and eventually finding the stable.
Live animals were a special highlight of the program with the shepherds herding real sheep and goats, and a donkey that stood patiently beside Mary and Joseph. Camel rides were available on the school’s front lawn, which was a big source of excitement for kids and adults alike.
Feedback about the event was extremely positive and the school plans to run it again next year.
With the addition of Mountain View, Narromine (NSW) and Mildura (Vic) this year, there are now ten Road to Bethlehem programs running in Australia and two in New Zealand. Many of the programs are based at Adventist schools or campgrounds.
Road to Bethlehem has a long history, beginning in 1995 in Nunawading (Vic) with less than 20 volunteers. Today, the Nunawading event draws crowds of more than 15,000 and is one of the primary Christmas attractions on the eastern side of Melbourne.
“Road to Bethlehem reminds people about the real meaning of Christmas—the non-commercial side of it,” says illustrator Shane Winfield. For the past 17 years, he has been directly involved with the event through designing promotional giveaways, set design and even lending out his children to play the role of baby Jesus.
“Perhaps even more significantly, it has broken down prejudices about the Adventist Church by showing the community that we have a biblical-based faith. We believe in the virgin birth, we believe in the prophecies about the Messiah, and we believe that Jesus came to save mankind.”