In its 35th year, ABCCM's Return to Bethlehem is the longest running Nativity production in North Carolina and is again graciously hosted at Groce United Methodist Church. Over fifty volunteer actors, dozens of local musicians, live animals, and many more come together to reenact first century Bethlehem under Roman rule which was the humble backdrop in which the baby Jesus was born. Upon arrival at the top floor of the church, individuals are grouped under a Hebrew family name. While waiting, people are entertained by local musical artists playing seasonal instrumentals and songs. At some point, audience members grouped by their Hebrew name take a short elevator ride and are greeted by a narrator who explains what will transpire in the city. This environmental theatre style production makes the audience part when they walk up to the Census Taker to begin their journey in Bethlehem. They then take a thirty-minute journey through the serpentine set on a pathway to the Manger. Along the way, actors in the local shops, passersby, prisoners in chains, or in the Temple children speak to each other and to the audience members of the common rumors of rebellion against the Romans and an uncommon and barely believable rumor that their Saviour could be in the city right now as a helpless baby in an animal pen. Prophets cry out, Roman soldiers order people to move along, live animals sound off while music plays overhead as the audience is shepherded towards the end to town. The sounds and light dim as the audience now hear the soft sounds of a real baby and its parents in the Manger. There, like the young couple, they can ponder Christmas. Though audience members may throw alms to the two beggars at the gate, this is not a fundraiser. For 35 years, Return to Bethlehem, is a gift back to the community from ABCCM's staff and its 280 member churches make this a lasting Christmas tradition for all.
December 6 6pm-8:30pm, December 7th 6pm-8:30pm, December 8th 10am-8:30pm, December 9th 2pm-6pm