On the way to Bethlehem

by Andrea Rowbottom

On the Way to Bethlehem is an outdoor nativity pageant in its 16th year.

It is a three night performance staged at the historic Country Heritage Park, Milton, regardless of the weather. Visitors journey along the country roads with a guide who interacts with actors at each of the 23 scenes.

The story begins with Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. As the story unfolds, visitors find themselves at a rustic log barn —a perfect nostalgic setting for the manger scene—with Mary, Joseph, a real baby as Jesus, little angels and a drummer boy amongst mounds of hay. As visitors take all this in, a manger choir softly sings “Still, Still, Still; The Night Is Cold and Chill!”

Nearly 600 dedicated volunteers give their time, talents and energy to produce the nativity pageant. This is their gift to the community and beyond, and above all, to the Glory of God. They work, each in their chosen aspects to make this outdoor performance possible: advertising, costuming, casting, guides, tractor drivers, refreshments, massed choir, reception, graphic design, coordinators, fund-raising, sponsors, school choirs, sets, lighting crew and director.

Grace Church Milton has supported the pageant since day one. Many parishioners are key to its success. Some have been involved for all 16 years. There are Grace members in almost all 23 scenes, though not always immediately recognized in Biblical costuming.

There are nearly 200 cast members over the three nights. For some it is a total family experience. Some started as little children and have graduated to adult roles or leave for university. It is always a happy/sad situation when they go on to university. I miss them, yet I wish them well and am proud of each of them.

Travelers on their way to Bethlehem
Travelers in a scene from On the Way to Bethlehem, an outdoor nativity pageant now in its 16th year. Visitors will be guided through 23 scenes telling the real story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Photo: Ted Hilton

One young man, Josh, started at four years old as “the little drummer boy”. He graduated to the shepherd boy and finally to one of the three angel Gabriels. He is now studying music at university. His family is a three generation participating family. Ann, the grandma, was a guide for several years; Carol, the mom, was a guide and now serves on the reception team; father Peter is a perfect Joseph at the manger; and Alana, the daughter is now Mary. Collectively, they have made a wonderful contribution to the pageant.

Many Grace members support and organize our fund-raising ventures—catering to the Hall of Fame presentations for the Agriculturalists of the Year awards and a Bowl-a-thon—which makes it possible to have many wonderful animals as part of the pageant, an expense of over $4,000.

Both events are supported as well by members of other churches who belong to “Milton and Area Christian Churches Working Together”. The nativity pageant is their major project.

In addition, several Grace members are sponsors of the Children’s Colouring Book, produced as a gift to all children who attend the pageant.

I invite you to walk with us to Bethlehem on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, December 1, 2 and 3, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Details at www.onthewaytobethlehem.ca

Come early and enjoy the music of the massed choir.

Dr. Andrea Rowbottom is director of On the Way to Bethlehem.