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12-20-17

Bethlehem Live

Mary and Joseph tend the newborn Jesus during Live Oak Christian Church’s presentation of Bethlehem Live. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright


A market scene from Bethlehem Live at the Suwannee County Coliseum in Live Oak last week. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright


By Jeffry Boatright


Live Oak Christian Church presented Bethlehem Live for the second straight year on the evenings of Dec. 15 and 16, for the entire community to enjoy. It was a unique opportunity for the public to experience what it might have been like to walk the streets of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth. Because the livestock show barn at the Suwannee County Coliseum was temporarily transformed into the olden city, local residents weren’t required to travel far to take in the enlightening experience.


From authentic metal working to displays of fruits and oils, visitors could easily develop a sense of existence in the ancient settlement during the first century, A.D. It was an experience that likely cultivated memories for the children in attendance, but certainly appealed to guests of all ages.
According to Dr. Larry Clay, pastor of Live Oak Christian Church, this year’s Bethlehem Live was indeed a success. The event, which was held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. both evenings, was free of charge to the public. Those in attendance were warmly welcomed with hot chocolate, fruit and popcorn in the show barn. There, the story of Christ’s birth was told in the form of a movie and live music.


After a brief introduction to the event, guests were escorted into the adjoining buildings, where the ancient city came to life. Passing a young man who posed as a Roman soldier, guests entered into a replica of the historic Bethlehem. The first attraction to visit was a blacksmith who worked diligently with metal that he had extracted from a fire. Other actors who portrayed residents of Christ’s birthplace could be seen behind the blacksmith, drawing water from a well.


Of course, animals were present to further authenticate the realistic tour. There was a donkey, a horse, a cow, goats and numerous sheep, along with other animals. The animals weren’t the only creatures on hand for the presentation. Several church members were in authentic-looking attire, and realistically portrayed the characters they played.


While accurately portraying the town in which Jesus was born was essential to the success of the Bethlehem Live event, an accurate account of Christ’s birth was paramount. The church’s staff and members certainly accomplished the feat of depicting the sacred aspect of the revered religious holiday, as it is written in the bible.


Leading into the final scene, shepherds were found tending their flock of live sheep, with angels nearby. The final exhibit presented in the Bethlehem Live event was the sacred scene of the nativity, with Mary and Joseph solemnly tending the Christ child. The scene was neither flamboyant nor theatrical, which was an accurate depiction, considering biblical accounts of the miracle birth.


Clay explained that he had envisioned the event since his tenure began at Live Oak Christian Church. He added that such an event not only strengthens the church, but serves as an outreach to the community. The ultimate purpose of presenting Bethlehem Live, however, is to share the story of Christ’s birth, life and purpose with others.


Christmas certainly brings about a season of joy in the Christian community. While most Christians do embrace secular traditions that are affiliated with Christmas, they also recognize the ultimate purpose of the season is to celebrate the birth of Christ. Of course, most theologians agree that the Savior’s birth was likely during the spring months, but Pope Julius 1 dedicated Dec. 25 as the day that Christ’s birth would be celebrated.


In keeping with the tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25, it is readily acknowledged by many that we must keep Christ in Christmas. With the ever-increasing secular traditions and hype of shopping, however, the true meaning and purpose of Christmas seems to become less distinctive from year to year. Fortunately, at least for one North Florida community, Live Oak Christian Church has found a way to keep the meaning of Christmas alive through their presentation of Bethlehem Live.



Various fragrances infiltrated the evening air during Bethlehem Live. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright


There was an abundance of food items on display during Live Oak Christian Church’s Bethlehem Live. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright


Shepherds kept watch over their flocks during the second Bethlehem Live, which was presented by Live Oak Christian Church. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright