There will be something missing from this year's Christmas celebration. Bethlehem Village, a twelve-year project for Hebron Baptist Church in Afton, will not be back this year. The website says simply:
At this time there are no plans to open Bethlehem Village in 2012. Feel free to look through this website for information and photos from years gone by.Word of its demise began circulating around Facebook a week before Thanksgiving. Many who had followed the star and enjoyed the simplicity and quiet of a Blue Ridge Mountain recreation of the greatest story on earth realized that experience would not be available this year.
The beauty of the Bethlehem Village was its unique simplicity in the hubbub of the twenty-first century, a reminder of far different times, and the quiet that settled along with the cold December air over the recreated structures and animals and visitors. I wrote about it often over the years including this 2010 remembrance.
During the winter of 2009-2010, Bethlehem was ready to open for the Christmas season but the incredible snows of that winter caused the church to cancel the event.
There is no explanation of why Bethlehem is not opening this year. One can speculate. It was a huge undertaking requiring many volunteers, financial backing, and organization. If help is needed, perhaps the church will get word into the community. With the reactions to its closing, one has to think the community would respond and, perhaps, Bethlehem could be part of future Christmases.
Meanwhile, we are grateful to Hebron Baptist Church for inspiring so many to follow the star to Bethlehem and celebrate the birth of Christ.