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Finding the meaning of Christmas in China Grove

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

It was a journey made more than 2,000 years ago by a young couple, Joseph and Mary, who traveled to Bethlehem for a census but a local church invites anyone to take that same journey.

New Hope Presbyterian Church hosts a drive-through nativity, Journey to Bethlehem, which depicts scenes from the life of Jesus.

Friday marked the first night of the China Grove church’s pageant. While drivers enter through large wooden gates, a messenger welcomes them to Bethlehem just as two soldiers on horses lead the way.

There are angels who appear to Mary, and then to Joseph.

Along the way, there’s the blacksmith’s shop, a pottery shop, a rich merchant selling rugs and the Bethlehem Inn where the couple were turned away.

Once visitors turn around the bend the three wise men are to their left, followed by the nativity, the Last Supper, the crucifixion, an empty tomb where he was resurrected and his ascension into heaven.

“We do this as a gift to the community; to bring attention to the reason for the Christmas season,” said Pastor James Byers.

Byers estimates that between 1,100 and 1,200 people will come through in the three nights.

Byers said the church doesn’t charge for the event, “we want it to be a gift,” however, donations are accepted.

He said he’s glad that people travel from far away to have this event be a part of their Christmas season.

Byers also hopes that people would visit the church throughout the rest of the year as well.

More than 100 volunteers from the community and neighboring churches help with the construction or play a role in the scenes.

Rebecca Walker, of China Grove, is one of those volunteers.

Walker is portraying Mary in the nativity scene. It is her first year participating. She heard about the event through a co-worker at China Grove Elementary.

“I hope people get a blessing out of it,” she said.

When asked why she decided to participate, Walker said she’s wanted to for awhile and thought it would be fun.

This is the second year that Brad Farmer, of Salisbury, has participated. This year, Farmer is portraying a rich merchant.

“I hope that people get that the true meaning of Christmas is that God was put here for everybody no matter what,” he said.

Harold and Debbie Morris, of Kannapolis, attend the pageant every year.

“We usually come two or three times. We love it,” Debbie said.

“It’s the meaning of Christmas and of Christ,” Harold said.

The couple said they really enjoy the event.

Doug and Candy Linker, also of Kannapolis visit the drive-through pageant each year.

“These people do a lot of time and hard work and we really appreciate it,” the Linkers said.

“I think it’s spiritually fulfilling,” Doug said.

The annual drive-through pageant will continue from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. tonight and Sunday.

For more information, call New Hope Presbyterian Church at 704-857-3211.

Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.

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