Burnt Hickory Baptist Church, 5145 Due West Road, will present “Journey through Bethlehem,” a live historical village, from Dec. 7-9. It will be open nightly from 6 p.m.-7:15 p.m., with a dramatic musical performance at 7:15. On Dec. 8, a Saturday matinee performance will start at 2 p.m., with the program starting at 3:15.
Barry Cook, Burnt Hickory’s worship arts pastor, said the journey combines several popular Christmas presentations that churches hold, including walks through Bethlehem, musical shows and live nativity scenes.
“We couldn’t make up our minds what we wanted to do, so we decided to combine all three of those,” he said.
The free, open to the public event will take place rain or shine, organizers say. The church began the program three years ago, with it drawing 2,600 people in 2011. It is one of several events the 2,500-member church hosts during the year.
Visitors will enter the event through a 3,200 square foot white tent, where they will be greeted by people dressed as Roman soldiers and shopkeepers. Guest will be given a cup of hot cider or hot chocolate and will also receive a replica coin to pay the “tax collector.”
Guests then enter the church building, where the halls around the worship center turn into the village of Bethlehem. The event features church members dressed as a Roman senator, a jeweler, a sword sharpener, a fabric vendor, a potter, a sandal maker and more.
After the village tour, guests enter the worship center to see performances from Burnt Hickory’s choirs, the praise band, orchestra and Soul to Soul Dance Ministry. Church members will also appear dressed as Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a nativity that also includes live animals.
In all, 500 church members participate in the production, Cook said.
Jim Hogan of west Cobb plays a rabbi in the village, then, during the dramatic presentation, he plays one of the three kings bringing Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. He has participated in the event each of the four years it has been held.
“Right from the beginning when they needed volunteers, I loved it,” he said.
Mary Johnson of west Cobb, who like Hogan is a member of Burnt Hickory Baptist, presents the spice booth to attendees as they tour the village. She said that getting to tell people about the ancient spices was a good way for her to become involved.
“I love to cook and was interested in what they did thousands of years ago and became interested in how spices were used,” she said. “I’m not somebody who can sing or dance, so that’s how I became involved.”
Johnson said her presentation also informs guests of the medical uses of spice in ancient times.
“The children are fascinated,” she said. “They want to touch the cinnamon and garlic.”
Hogan hopes that attendees can get an idea of what life what like in Bethlehem.
“What the townspeople went through and what the family went through,” he said. “You come out with just a great feeling of being drawn back to that time.”
Cook said Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta once hosted a popular event similar to what Burnt Hickory is now doing, but, as far as he knows, it is the only one currently in Cobb. He wants Journey through Bethlehem to show what Christmas is all about.
“We’re not at all sorry about presenting that Christmas, especially when you go through a weekend like this, where it’s, ‘Forget Thanksgiving, let’s get onto the Black Friday sales,’ ” he said.