So what was life really like in Bethlehem on the day Jesus was born? What did people do for a living and how did people handle day to day life? What were Roman soldiers like?
If you want to know, come to Bethlehem Revisted, which will take place at First Church Coral Springs during the evenings from December 9 through 13. Members and friends of the congregation have worked hard to recreate first century life in ancient Israel. Members have done extensive research and volunteers began work on the town during October.
This season, there will be 17 shops showing areas such as carpentry, blacksmith, precious metal, fish and poultry, leather and bakery. The bakery shop is considered very important because Bethlehem in Hebrew means House of Bread. There are also shops for pottery, baskets, olive oil, herbal healing, perfumery and papyrus. This year there will be a honey shop where people can sample some honey dipped in matzah bread. You will be able to see a potter working with his wheel. One can learn how papyrus was made and see a scribe writing on the papyrus. Few people in the ancient world could write and so they would go to a scribe if they needed to have something written. Visitors can see how wheat was made into flour and then baked into bread. There is also a music shop where you can hear the sound of a shofar.
“We have worked hard to make it as authentic as possible,” said Janet Brockway, event coordinator. “We have each shop owner do some research on their area so that people can see how things were made in that time period. We are continuing to do research on ancient Bethlehem and anytime we find something new, we add it to the presentation.”
Those who go to Bethlehem Revisited may actually feel that they have stepped back into the first century. At the entrance, everyone is asked to sign a census roll because a census was being conducted on the Roman world. Upon entering, you will meet people wearing tunics and head pieces of long ago. The Roman soldiers are in a bad mood and they are dressed in full armor. They actually act as security for the event. There are the sights and smells of an ancient town. You can see how daily business was transacted and how Roman soldiers and town’s people interacted. The shops are so authentic you might want to buy some of the items on display.
After taking a tour of the town, you can see the baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph living in the stable. The holy family is always played by a few young families who bring their baby. There will be animals by the manger. The inn keeper announces to the visitor that his inn has no room and that he asked a couple to spend the night in the stable. A manger was where hay was placed and it made a somewhat comfortable bed for a newborn.
Now, many churches want to learn more about Bethlehem Revisited and how they can develop a similar presentation. A church from Alaska has wanted to learn about it. A church in Georgia and a church in Jacksonville, Florida have expressed interest. Brockway encourages them to start small and build up over time. There are about 300 volunteers involved in the presentation.
About 10,000 people will come to the event December 9 through 13. On weekdays, it is open from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m and on Saturday and Sunday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Bethlehem Revisited is free to the public. It is presented as a gift to the community.
First Church Coral Springs is located at 8650 West Sample Road, Coral Springs.