Community members from around Morisset and Cooranbong (NSW) have enthusiastically embraced Hillview Adventist Church’s annual Christmas night markets and nativity play, now in their fifth year.
While not officially in the stable of the Road To Bethlehem franchise, Hillview’s event is similar. The story of Jesus’ birth is told in a series of performance spaces around the church complex; groups of audience members walk sequentially through the various outdoor and indoor scenes, witnessing Roman soldiers announcing the census, a busy Bethlehem tavern and marketplace, shepherds shocked by the angelic announcement, Herod’s palace intrigues and the Baby lying in a manger. Biblical costumes, live animals and myriads of fairy lights combine to make the experience memorable.
The night markets and walk-through nativity are the brainchild of Hillview church member Corina Seemann, who convinced church leaders in 2013 to support the idea. Through the year, Ms Seemann coordinates monthly Sunday community markets on the church grounds where both church members and others are invited to set up displays. Many of the stall-holders are happy to return for the Christmas night markets that run for four consecutive evenings in December.
“People are saying they’ve seen nothing like it and that it’s really lovely to see the real crux of Christmas,” said Ms Seemann. “It takes them away from the commercialism. I’m just so encouraged at the number of people who are willing to do stuff—all the Hillview members. And I think others are being encouraged too.”
Monday opening night was challenged by rain, with only a handful of people making it through the walk-through nativity before organisers called a halt. In contrast, Tuesday night was clear and it was a challenge to limit the first enthusiastic audience group to the official maximum of 25 people.
Prayers are being said for tonight and Thursday night, when, again, rain threatens. Ms Seemann is praying, but undaunted, noting that the rain on Monday gave badly needed extra rehearsal time for the actors. “God has His hand over it all,” she said. “I’m excited about the future.”