Where’s Loganville? Remember that commercial from the car dealership in Loganville? It ended with, “Where’s Loganville?” In northeast Georgia’s Walton County, that’s where.
Located 15 miles from Loganville is the city of Bethlehem. Every year, throngs of people mail their Christmas cards from the Bethlehem Post Office so that those cards will have a “Bethlehem” postmark. Loganville and Bethlehem are both fun places to be in December every year, like the year Loganville First Baptist Church hosted a Walk through Bethlehem.
So there I was in Loganville, under a cobalt blue sky filled with stars on a clear December night. There was a live market with merchants, food, live music, live animals and people shopping. More about that later. Walk Through Bethlehem.
Although it was a free event, a ticket was required pursuant to crowd control. When we got there, we were directed to the family hall where we got our ticket. We were given a Roman coin so that we could pay the tax that would be demanded of us by the Roman soldiers. We were warned that the Roman soldiers were crabby because of having to deal with the crowds in town for the census.
In groups of ten, we were ushered from the church’s family hall to the city gates of Bethlehem. Roman soldiers, on horseback, demanded payment of the tax. They took our coins and said, “Stay out of our way while you are here for the census.”
The Bethlehem market was busy with an array of merchants. A potter was busily turning out beautiful hand-thrown pitchers and bowls. At the fish monger’s shop, smoke wafted toward the sky as fresh fish sizzled while it cooked over the fire.
The aroma of fresh-baked bread filled the air. The baker called out to us, “… have some of this wonderful, fresh bread!” A weaver spun wool and made fine-looking blankets. There were vendors of olives and olive oil, salt, wine and spices. Merchants called out to us, “Come sample some figs!” and “Take home some of this fine wine!”
In the middle of the market, rabbis offered to pray with us. My favorite rabbi was dressed in a proper rabbinical robe (and Nike tennis shoes). In a heavy Georgia accent, the rabbi said, “Let us pray.”
After we went through the market and finished shopping, we wandered through the village and reached the edge of town. On a picturesque hillside, we encountered shepherds warming themselves by the fire, of which Boy Scout Troop 536, Loganville, was in charge. The shepherds had two border collies herding the sheep.
We could hardly fail to notice the enormous, bright star in the sky. Long, long ago, that star was known as the Star of Bethlehem. Leaving the shepherds behind, we followed the star and arrived at a stable. The stable was quiet and smelled of fresh hay. There were kittens playing in the hay. There was an ox, a donkey, a camel, sheep and their lambs. The animals seemed to know this was a special place, for it seemed they were smiling. Also in the stable were shepherds and wise men. At the center of this peaceful, reverent scene were Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus! The wise men brought presents for the baby. There was a beautiful angel who seemed to be in charge of it all. This was the best part of Walk Through Bethlehem.
The star continued to shine brilliantly over the stable. Mesmerized by this awesome sight several minutes went by during which we reverently watched the live Nativity scene.
At this juncture, we were invited to the family hall for hot chocolate. As we enjoyed our hot chocolate, we watched a video of the Christmas story as told in the Bible in the book of Luke. When the video was over, very much to the credit of the folks at First Baptist Church of Loganville, they made themselves available to answer questions anyone might have about this great story. There are those who do not know about what happened in Bethlehem on that blessed, starry night long, long ago.
A shooting star streaked across the sky just as we reached the car. How appropriate that was. The perfect end to the perfect December night at Walk Through Bethlehem in Loganville.
Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, and welcomes your email to her at email@example.com.