Follow along Mary and Joseph’s Journey to Bethlehem

Follow along Mary and Joseph’s Journey to Bethlehem

The 10th annual Journey to Bethlehem will be presented Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7 at various stops throughout the village of Walnut Creek. The event concludes with the nativity scene on The Farm in Walnut Creek.


Visitors are invited to travel back in time and follow the same journey Mary and Joseph took as they made that famous trek to where Jesus would be born during the 10th annual Journey to Bethlehem.

The long-anticipated event, with hundreds turning out for it year after year and more and more visitors coming to the community, will be presented Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7 at various stops throughout the village of Walnut Creek, thanks to the hard work and tireless dedication of employees and merchants of the Walnut Creek Business Association, as well as dozens of volunteers who help to ensure Journey to Bethlehem continues to be a success.

From 4-8 p.m. on both nights, anyone interested in finding out what it was really like the night of Jesus’ birth is invited to attend Journey to Bethlehem, where those in attendance will have the opportunity to visit six different stops to transfer them back in time to a place they have never been able to visit before … until now.

“For many [Journey to Bethlehem] has become a family tradition,” said Vicki VanNatta, public relations coordinator for Dutchman Hospitality. “Walking through town with crowds of people, it is just as I imagine Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born. Can you imagine coming to town and the only place to stay with your pregnant wife is in a barn? Would you really consider staying in a barn just to have a roof over your head?”

At the first stop, just like Mary and Joseph did, guests also will register to be taxed, but they will do so at Walnut Creek Mennonite Church, 2619 County Road 144, Sugarcreek. Visitors will sign up, or “register,” for the evening’s activities on scrolls to add some old-fashioned décor to the festivities. After completing the registration process, visitors will be given a map outlining the Journey to Bethlehem and the other stops available to visit during the event. Free candy canes and bottled water will be available to guests as they leave the registration process, to be held inside the church’s fellowship hall.

“Come and experience what Mary and Joseph may have experienced in Bethlehem long ago,” VanNatta said, “a crowded city in chaos with no room for them but also a warm welcome to come in from the cold. Come celebrate the fact that Jesus came for all of us. It’s a time to focus on what Christmas is really about. On the back of the map is the scripture upon which every stop is based. Keep that scripture and read it to your family on Christmas Day.”

In addition to the first stop at Walnut Creek Mennonite Church, there are five additional locations on the Journey to Bethlehem tour, each with its own theme that has something to do with what Mary and Joseph experienced and centered around the birth of baby Jesus.

The second stop will be the busy marketplace at Coblentz Chocolates, where guests will receive free chocolate-covered pretzels. There will be no room at the inn at the third stop at Carlisle Inn, and shepherds will flock the fields in the grassy area beside Carlisle Gifts for the fourth stop. Visitors should view the shepherds from the sidewalk above the grassy area at this stop.

Angels appear to the shepherds at the fifth stop when they will be seen on the upper porch of the building next to Carlisle Gifts; visitors should stand on the sidewalk below the porch to hear the messages from the angels. The final stop will give guests the chance to visit King Herod’s throne room at Yoder’s Home & Hardware, located beside Rebecca’s Bistro. Visitors should enter through the back of the store and exit through the front door; popcorn and cider will be served free of charge as participants exit this location.

Following each of the six stops, participants of Journey to Bethlehem should plan to continue on the short drive to The Farm, where the event will culminate with a live nativity, a re-enactment of the three wise men taking gifts to baby Jesus and plenty of refreshments for everyone including a campfire complete with roasting marshmallows and homemade kettle corn.

In the parking areas at The Farm, there will be soldiers on horseback to direct visitors to horse-drawn wagons taking them where they should go.

The event is offered free of charge, thanks to nearly all the costs associated with Journey to Bethlehem being donated, from the labor needed to run the occasion to the refreshments it takes to feed those who attend.

“Without the 500 volunteers that help, [Journey to Bethlehem] would never happen,” said VanNatta, who, along with Coblentz Chocolates marketing director Amy Yoder, helps to get the ball rolling on the event each year but really gives all the credit to making the now 10-year tradition run smoothly to those sharing their time for free. “They are the ones that create the wonderful experience that visitors can celebrate. There are people that come from as far away as North Carolina to help at The Farm and in Walnut Creek. We are grateful to our volunteers and to the businesses that donate the use of their buildings, their employees’ time, food and funds to make this happen.”

Visitors to the 10th annual Journey to Bethlehem are invited to attend the event anytime between 4-8 p.m., but maps should be picked up by 7:30 p.m. at Walnut Creek Mennonite Church. A lighted star will hang at each stop. Families will receive a special surprise to commemorate this being the 10th year for the journey. Dress for the weather; both walking and driving is required.

For more information call 330-893-4200.

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