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The Holy Walk

What happens when a Sunday School class of young married couples decides they want to do something to help their young children keep their focus on the true meaning of Christmas?


What if they decided to do a "Holy Walk", recreating the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem?  


And 400+ people show up?!   


They decide to do it again!  Maybe move it across the road to another, larger farm.  Add more props.   And 800 show up?


 And in a few more years, ask area churches to help as it is GROWING!


That’s what happened at the Grace United Methodist Church in 1980.  


And now the whole community of Bremen, IN, gets into the act.   You go to the Bremen High School gym to wait to be bused to the farm now.   There are 250-300 costumed people to help recreate the night Jesus was born.


They used to do it 3 nights on a weekend in December (either the first or second, usually, as it depends on home basketball games!   ), and in the mid-’90s they had around 9000 people!    Several years ago they cut it back to Friday and Saturday, as people were up so late tearing down on Sunday, making it hard to get to work the next day!


The guide I asked wasn’t sure, but thought maybe around 4000 come a year now.


When you get off the bus, you are now in Bethlehem.   A Roman soldier is there to "usher" you off and to your family (a bit brusquely, mind you!  And don’t you DARE snicker at the brooms on their helmets!!!).    There you meet up with your guide, who is the family head, leading you back to the city of your forefather’s birth, Bethlehem.   You better pay attention to your family name, where you’re from, what you do for a living and how long it took you to travel, because you can be sure a Roman guard is going to ask you!!! And if you don’t answer right away…well!   He might just put you in the stockade or a jail cell!!!! 


(Oh!  And DON’T lose your scroll nor the "seal" on it!!)


Along the way you stop and warm yourself by the fire with a young couple who are resting on their journey to Bethlehem.   They are Joseph and Mary, and Mary is great with child.   You might discuss the hope that there is still a room for everyone at the inns in Bethelehem.  Then you move along.


Next, some shepherds invite you to warm yourself at their fire (this IS Indiana, and on this particular December night, it was in the teens!!!!).   While visiting with them, behold!    An angel blows a trumpet and announces that this night, in the City of David, a Savior is born, which is Christ, the Lord!!!!   An angelic host accompanies this angel in singing praises to God!   As soon as they appear, they are gone, leaving you and the shepherds to wonder at this amazing proclamation!


You hurry into Bethlehem, but alas!   You need to sign in with the Romans!   They herd your family into the tent and look you over, and you better not laugh!!!  They might stick someone in the jail cell there if they are insolent, or if they’re looking for a dish washer!   Someone from the family signs you in, then they herd you back out!  (And don’t worry!  If someone is in the cell, they’ll join you!)


Ah, the inn is ahead!   You send the young ones to knock (hoping the innkeeper will have mercy on the children!), but to no avail!   When the innkeeper opens the door, he informs you that he has NO room!  In fact, he says he had to send a young couple, with the woman great with child, over to the stable on the other side of town.   Joshua, your family head, is livid!   Can you imagine?  Sending a woman great with child to a STABLE?!   Your "brother", Gideon, calms him down.   It does seem a shame, that the innkeeper couldn’t find just a little room somewhere, though….


Around the bend, you come along to some fishermen.   They are trying to sell you some fish, but you have to think about those taxes you will pay!   It’s hard to know how much you’ll be charged, so you can’t just buy all your supplies!  But you ARE hungry…..about the time you think you might bargain with them, along comes those Romans again, herding you like sheep, not letting anyone loiter around!  My, but they seem a bit cross tonight!  (Unless you have a small child in your arms, one of them might whisper "He okay?"    )


Over a bridge and you come to the shepherds’ tent!  Their wives are anxiously awaiting their return, and invite you in to warm yourself.   Some children are playing with a dreidel, others pounding grain, and one of the wives is stirring up a wonderful stew for the men when they return.   You discuss with them the wondrous vision you saw of angels!    They at first are incredulous, then plying you with questions.   Before you can answer them all…you guessed it!!!  AGAIN!   You are herded out into the cold.


Now you enter into Bethlehem proper, and oh!  What sights meet your eyes!   Many shops with their keepers hawking their wares.   Boys drawing a wooden cart (right down to the wheels!) hollering, "Wheat for sale!  Finest in all of Bethlehem!"    And of course, Roman soldiers patrolling the streets!


We were rushed by the first "shop"–selling "fine jewelry"!   "Joshua", our family head, said, "Women don’t even look!  Don’t even look!  We have our taxes yet to pay!"   


Then we went to a shop passing out samples of warm bread!    Mmmm!  Something to help us on our "journey"!    We barter work for some loaves tomorrow, after we pay our taxes, so we can have bread for our return trip to Capernaum (where we’re from–it’s a two week journey, you know!). 


Across the street to the pottery shop.   Apparently "Rachel", a young girl in our group, has broken one of our water pots.   So they were sizing her up for a new pot and arranging for some of us to help dig clay for new pots (bartering again!).    The soldiers come along and "herd" us out of there (again!).


Next door they are making pancakes and giving out samples (nice, hot samples!).   However,  before we can even work anything out to grind wheat for pancakes, the soldiers usher us out yet again.  


Thankfully, then there’s a shop selling roasted apples!   So we get a sample, and work out a deal to pick apples and go next door to the basket place to barter for baskets to pick the apples with!   Of course, we again barter to pick reeds so we don’t have to pay TWO denarii for a basket!!!!   (Remember, a denarius is a day’s wage!)


We barely get the deal done when (yes, again!) we are herded off!


Our next stop is a sandal maker with quite a personality!!!   He fits a "sandal" to one of the young children in the group.  Problem is, it’s big enough for BOTH feet!   After a jolly time of bantering, we need to move on to the rug shop.  There we’re trying to barter to build a loom in return for some sleeping rugs, and while we’re working out the details, we’re ushered out of there and on to the next stop!


Next we get samples of raisins and grapes, and make arrangements to come pick fruit in return for more food for our return trip.    Looming ahead is the tent where we go before we pay our taxes.  Before we’re ready, we’re ushered in, no talking!   Our youngest daughter is "chosen" to take the basket and receives the "seals" off our scrolls.   Then we move across the tent to make room for the next group while we await our fate!   Of course, there are the comments about the "furs" on our coats, the gold dangling from ears and how this must be a good year for us!!!!


Next we go into the magistrate’s tent.  You can tell he is quite rich–look at all the candles burning!    The rich robes he wears!   He is NOT in good humor, though, (these officials don’t want to be in some small non-descript town collecting taxes), and threatens to put someone in the stockade (which is right there, for convenience!).   Thankfully, we get through there, getting our "scrolls" stamped (although I almost took incident with a soldier calling telling me to "help the little one, old woman!"    The sight of the stockade helped me keep my mouth shut!!!)


Whew!   We made it through!   Next is the Synagogue of the Lion of Judah.  Normally women and children are not allowed in, but since it’s a cold night, and Roman soldiers are out and about, they allow us in to warm up and be safe.   There some boys are learning to write in Hebrew, another is reading from a scroll.    We praise God together and go on our way.    As we come along, ahead is a star!!!!   Right above a stable.    And there……


There is the young couple we saw at the beginning of our journey.   Joseph and Mary.   Mary has had her child, and we realize that this is the Savior foretold by the angels.  We watch on in silent awe, hushed by the wonder of the moment.  


As we reluctantly go, we come across three wise men from the East, bearing gifts for the King.    They are following the star, as well.   


Then we come to a cross.   Our guide steps out of character and delivers a beautiful, impassioned plea to consider the true meaning of Christmas.


Before we head up to the barn to await our ride back to the school, there is one more stop.    Here, in another tent where we can warm up a bit and rest, area pastors ask the children what things they saw, and again relay to us the true meaning of Christmas.   How this is just a very small, incomplete glimpse of how things might have happened on that night long ago.


Up to the barn, to get two cookies and some hot chocolate (volunteers bake 1200 dozen cookies for this event!).   We look at pictures of past Holy Walks, discuss how this was the best one yet (this is our 9th year going–we first went in 1996, but had to miss a few years here and there).   Our guide was really into his character!  


All too soon, it’s time for the bus ride back to the twenty-first century.   The lady guide on our bus is the one that told us all these statistics I’ve mentioned.


And the most amazing of all, is that in 29 years of having this, they have only cancelled ONCE because of the weather!   This community is very committed to this event.   They have been there in snow, rain, and extreme cold, late into the night (once we went on Saturday night, got there later, and we didn’t board the bus until 12:30 a.m., and didn’t get out of there until 1:30 a.m., and there were still more people coming!!!).  


I am very grateful that the Bremen community does this year after year.  It is the highlight of my Christmas season.   


I’m sure those families 29 years ago could never have imagined how far-reaching, how lasting their idea would be!


When our desire is to focus on Him, there is no telling where He might take it!!!!


I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the Holy Walk!  And if you’re in northern Indiana next year in December, check to see which weekend it is, and please make every effort to get there!  


It’s well worth it!



2 Responses to “The Holy Walk”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Mrs. R.! : )

    It would seem from the comments you're feeling better. Hope so. I'll continue to keep you in my prayers.

    To anyone who reads this, I second everything she said about the Holy Walk. It really is an amazing experience; it helps to keep the reality of the events of Christ's birth on your mind.

    God bless, Mrs. R!

    In Christ,

    ~DB : )

  2. watalulu says:

    Hi, That was nice trip you took us on. I read the WHOLE thing. lol

    Take care,


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