Road to Bethlehem—the walk-through dramatisation of the story of the birth of Jesus—is returning to in-person events at a number of locations around Australia and New Zealand next month. According to Road to Bethlehem leaders, there is a lot of excitement about being able to focus on Jesus again in this way, after the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Road to Bethlehem locations include Melbourne, Perth and Canberra on various dates in the first two weeks of December.
The Melbourne “Road to Bethlehem” team hosted online events over the past two years that reached tens of thousands of people around the world. “I’ve learnt that there is nothing that replaces being together,” comments Nathan Hall, who acted as chair of the organising committee during that time. “The data tells us that we have had a wider reach—for example, we had people watching from China—but it is just not the same as being together in person. Connectivity is not the same as community.”
Committee secretary Stacey Panozzo is also seeing this excitement in anticipation of the 28th year of Road to Bethlehem in Melbourne. “We are getting very good responses from our community and the wider public, who are excited to support and promote what we are doing,” she reports. “What we did over the past two years seems to have worked to maintain our connections, as well as the opportunities we had to extend our reach internationally. But I am looking forward to crowds of people back on the Edinburgh College campus, to late nights and to telling the story of Jesus again.”
Ms Panozzo explains that the pandemic disruptions were an opportunity to see God at work in Road to Bethlehem in different ways. “Road to Bethlehem has been such a well-oiled machine over many years,” she says, “but then we were able to see God leading and opening opportunities over the past two year when we didn’t know what to do or how to do it. This is His story and we just need to be willing to do what we can to share it.”
Both Ms Panozzo and Mr Hall are also excited to get the team of almost 400 volunteers together and on the road again to re-tell the story of Jesus’ birth. “In a fairly secular society, Christmas is one of those few times when we can have conversations about Jesus, so we encourage people to think about how they celebrate Christmas and take this opportunity to share Jesus,” says Mr Hall. “That might be coming to Road to Bethlehem, seeing the Baby and leaving a prayer on the lawn—but it can also happen in your community in different ways.”