'Tis the season for twinkling lights adorning rooftops, holiday feasts and children rushing to bed on Christmas Eve eagerly awaiting Santa Claus.
Margaret Hopkins had a spinning wheel built from a picture in a Bible to add authenticity to her cloth shop in Bethlehem Village at Martinez United Methodist Church.
File photo by Jim Blaylock
But two local churches have gone to great efforts to honor the true meaning of the holiday by celebrating the birth and life of Christ with nativity and Bethlehem scenes.
For the third year, members of Sharon Baptist Church in Appling will lead visitors on a hayride that depicts both the birth and life of Christ. The hayride, which will offer interactive scenes and hot chocolate, is free and will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at the Columbia County Fairgrounds on Columbia Road.
"We start with the prophecy of Christ in Isaiah, as the coming Messiah," church pastor Andy Collins said. "Then we go to the usual thought of Christmas, and that is a baby in a manger. The only thing is if we leave the baby in the manger, he can't be our savior. Therefore, we follow the life of Christ. We see through characters. We see through the woman at the well and through Lazarus and through the leper, that he has authority over sin, over sickness and over disease."
Despite constant rain, more than 500 people took the 30-minute hayride in 2002, and in 2003 more than 1,300 watched characters tell the story of Christ's life, Collins said.
"We just want the privilege of telling the story," Collins said.
Martinez United Methodist Church also is offering its annual walk-through view of Bethlehem from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the church on Washington Road, across from Baston Road.
For nearly 10 years, church members have recreated the city that might have surrounded Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve, the Rev. Peggy Lowe said. It took roughly 125 church members to put the city scene together.
"They did everything from sewing costumes to fixing refreshments for visitors," Lowe said. "We work on it over a long period of time in such a way that it involves everybody."
Visitors can register with the census taker and the Roman soldiers guarding the city gate before strolling through the village and meeting the shepherds and Wise Men and seeing the city's merchants in their shops, including candle-makers, carpenters, bakers, basket-makers, cloth sellers and rug makers.
"There are a lot of different activities to see,'' Lowe said. "It is outdoors under the trees.''
The mini-Bethlehem scene sets the stage for the live nativity scene depicting the birth of Christ at the end. The walk-through tour is free, but the church is accepting canned food donations for Columbia County Cares food pantry.
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