As the sun began to set and the lambs and donkeys began to lower their heads, snow fell gently outside of a stable in Sun City Center on Wednesday evening.
So it wasn’t really snow, it was a modified bubble machine, but it looked like snow. Seeing it falling among the 100 cast members and volunteers at the Sun City Center United Methodist Church Walk to Bethlehem, the church’s first-ever live nativity scene, it even felt like snow. Somehow the palm trees and the warm evening air didn’t deter from that feeling. At that moment, at that church, it was a winter’s night in Bethlehem.
The Walk to Bethlehem was held as a gift by the church Ministry Executive Team to the congregation and to the entire community. More than 700 people were estimated to have visited the church that evening, stopping at each point of significance leading to Christmas morning. From angels sounding the news with trumpets to an innkeeper turning away all who came, saying there is “no room at the inn,” to a humble manger in a stable, they were scenes heart-felt, reverent and touching. There were also shepherds in the field, King Herod and his men, Roman soldiers, a handbell ensemble and the Wise Men bearing gifts. The beautifully inspired Nativity with the manger also had live donkeys, goats and sheep.
The path was marked with flickering luminaries for those who chose to walk through Bethlehem and golf carts, complete with a costumed guide, were provided for those who could not. It wound through to Bethlehem, the manger and stable and ended with the angel Gabriel, arms spread with his wings, and snow falling as the lambs bowed their heads to the nightfall and, seemingly, the events of the first Christmas.
The Walk to Bethlehem was led by the SCC United Methodist Church Community Connections Team. More than merely putting on a beautiful and elaborate show, it was important to the church that visitors not only had the opportunity to see, but also to learn about one of the most significant events in Christianity. For this Christmas, the church offered all who came a glimpse into the first Christmas.
The walk ended with an invitation for hot chocolate and cookies among decorated Christmas trees in the church’s Life Enrichment Center. Tickets were required to spread out the large number of visitors but there was no charge for the event, although donations of non-perishable food items were accepted for the church’s community food pantry. Those waiting for their turn to make the walk were treated to the sights and sounds of period-correct costumed characters and music.
The Sun City Center United Methodist Church is located at 1210 Del Webb Blvd. For information, visit www.sccumc.com or call 813-634-2539.