Those of us who love the holidays all have images ingrained in our heads of Christmas magic. For me, I have a few that jump right out: the Christmas tree farm my parents would take us to each year, the festive looking trolley my family rode through the streets of Walla Walla one Christmas Eve, and the fireplace at my grandparents’ house where we would lay out cookies for Santa. I can close my eyes right now and conjure up a vivid image of each scene.
This past weekend, Sidney and I enjoyed a very special Christmas visual that from now on will always resonate within me.
We were traveling back to Myrtle Beach from Murrells Inlet where we had just finished up a 3D ultrasound. About 10 miles separate the two areas. To be honest, the drive is an eyesore. Throughout stretches of the trek you are treated to very uninspired landscape. No colors, scattered trees, little architecture. Since it was 5 p.m. it was starting to get dark, making the trip even that more dreary. As we were driving along, we saw police lights flashing on the side of the road. Thinking the cop had pulled someone over, we drove past without thinking anything of it. After we had passed the police car by about 30 feet, something caught the corner of both our eyes…
In the dark, unimaginative area we were in, we saw a sight that transformed everything. To our right and off to a distance we saw lit tiki torches, white Christmas lights, and high powered lamps. We saw structures made to look like a town from about 2,000 years ago. Sidney squealed when she could make out the shapes of a camel and other animals (you just don’t see that type of wildlife in the Grand Strand area). Finally, you saw people that looked like they had jumped right out of the Bible.
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere on a dark highway, we had just seen a very unusual site. However, it didn’t take long for it to click for Sidney. She immediately identified it as a Drive-Thru Nativity. Overjoyed by the scene, we didn’t need much convincing. Although not the easiest thing to do, we managed to turn left down a street so we could reverse course on the divided highway and head in the opposite direction back to the Nativity. Once we were going toward the scene, we had to reverse course again once we passed it so we could get on the side of the highway where all the excitement was happening. As we approached the flashing police lights we saw earlier it became obvious…law enforcement was helping out with crowd control. We turned right past the car as a cop waved us in.
We had arrived at the Church of the Resurrection, a place of worship I never knew existed. Even though the church was a tall structure with an impressive steeple, it had never popped out to me while driving the monotony of Highway 17 Bypass in the past. On this particular weekend, the congregation was putting on its “Return to Bethlehem” Drive-Thru Nativity. As we drove by the church up to the gates of Bethlehem, we stopped at several stations. Each of these stations had a board with scripture written on it setting the stage for the different scenes we would encounter after going through the gates.
Church members arranged cars into one of three lanes in front of the Bethlehem gates. When we were given the go-ahead, we slowly drove forward. Two teens dressed as guards in armor halted us.
“Are you here for the Census?” one of the teens questioned.
“Yes we are!” replied Sidney.
With that the gates opened and we entered the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
For the next ten minutes or so, we were treated to several scenes that told the story of the birth of Jesus. So much effort was poured into the presentation. Each scene was built with care and craftsmanship. The church members serving as actors had microphones so you could easily hear from the comfort of your car. Church members not playing a part gave us clear directions on when to drive up to the next scene. The animals did not disappoint. Besides the camel we also saw goats, llamas, and sheep.
All the special moments from the actual birth of Jesus to the angel appearing to the shepherds to the visit of the Magi were depicted. My personal favorite scenes were the first and the last. Starting off the Drive-Thru Nativity was the angel telling Mary that she would conceive the Son of God and concluding the display was a joyful performance by a choir of angels singing Angels We Have Heard on High.
The presentation was perfect, as was our timing. Not knowing about this event at all, we had arrived right when it started on the first of the only two nights that it was offered. It certainly was special.
But as I mentioned above, what will really stay with me from last Saturday night was the scene we saw while passing in our car. In the dreariness, we saw the town of Bethlehem fully illuminated, inviting us to stop. I won’t forget the image of the people, the animals, and the light that seemed to cry out to us as we drove by. Thanks to the Church of the Resurrection for doing such a cool thing. Don’t Blink.