As it turns out, this was exactly what I needed.
I'd spent the day squeezing through throngs of Christmas shoppers, watching people fight over parking spots and not accomplishing much other than getting trampled by "holiday spirit".
And so, as it turns out, what I really needed was a visit to The Living Nativity in Searcy, AK. It was just the remedy to pull me out of the holiday commercialization vortex and remind me what the season is supposed to be about.
Searcy's First Assembly of God recreates the very first Christmas night by bringing Bethlehem to life. As you drive through the city in your vehicle, it seems as though you've just driven onto a movie set. With over 40 buildings, more than 150 people in costume, sheep, donkeys, camels and torch-lit streets, no detail is overlooked in recreating the time and birthplace of Jesus. The streets are alive with merchants, tradesmen, Roman guards and townspeople. Open your windows and you'll hear the tax collector or a census-taker going about their business, customers haggling with merchants.
When you drive through the entrance, you are greeted with hot chocolate and a CD with a recorded narration guiding you through the streets and explaining what is taking place as you navigate the city streets. And, can you believe, admission is free! There is no charge for this wonderful experience. However, donations are gratefully accepted.
This incredible, real-life look into the birth of Christ has become a Searcy tradition and a statewide attraction. Last year, over 11,000 people attended and more are expected this year. If you come, you should expect a long line of cars waiting their turn to drive through. The line can take up to two hours — but PLEASE don't let that deter you. With a bit of planning, you can make the wait a part of your fun experience. We packed some snacks and listened to our favorite Christmas CDs. The car in front of us had a portable DVD player and watched a movie while inching towards the entrance.
When we first entered, we joked about the cars driving through Bethlehem. It didn't take long though before the 21st century faded away as the sounds and smells and sights truly took us back 2000 years. As we approached the small stable with a mother, father and newborn baby in a manger, we all became quiet. A lump swelled in my throat. The commercialism of my afternoon melted away and I remembered what the season was all really about.
The Living Nativity will be held for one more weekend, Dec. 14-16.
101 Benton St.
Searcy, AR 72143
For more information, call 501-268-3289 or visit The Living Nativity website.
If you can't make it this year, start planning now for next year. This is an unforgettable experience for the entire family.