Get past all of the wrapping paper, sugar cookies, Santa lists and shiny decorations and rediscover the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus.
Through the “Follow the Shepherds” Christmas walk, and the “Under the Bethlehem Star” multimedia presentation, the Explorations in Antiquity Center gives visitors opportunities to rekindle the true spirit of the Christmas season.
The center uses a multimedia presentation, guided tours and first century archaeological reconstructions to give visitors a realistic experience of what life was like when Mary and Joseph made their historic trip to Bethlehem. Classical and traditional seasonal music accompanies beautiful slides, and breathtaking video clips of Israel landscapes and ancient structures. The images are projected on the large overhead screen that is mounted in the front of the authentic Roman stepped theater.
The center’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. James Fleming, has worked and lived in Israel since 1973. His extensive background includes working as an archaeologist, lecturer, professor and for 25 years he has taught Jewish and Arab tour guides about Christianity for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and Palestinian guides in Jerusalem.
“The center’s mission statement is, ’ to help people experience the ancient Biblical world, its history and culture,’” Fleming said.
The “Follow the Shepherds” Christmas walk program gives visitors guided tours through the center’s major archaeological replicas. Visitors experience areas titled, “Life of the Shepherd”, “Life of the Farmer” and “Life of the Village”. Roman market places and ancient tomb reconstructions are also part of the guided tour.
After visitors attend the shepherds’ walk and are given a actual sense of life in ancient biblical times, they are then invited to climb the heights of the center’s replicated authentic Roman stepped theater to enjoy the multimedia production of “Under the Bethlehem Star”.
Fleming explained that the multimedia show was designed to accomplish two main objectives.
“By using real pictures of landscapes of Israel we wanted to give the observer a better visual image of what it may have been like at the time of the first Christmas,” Fleming said. “Secondly, we used beautiful pictures and scenes from all over the world to convey the joy of the Christmas season.”
During the multimedia production actors, garbed in realistic period dress, re-enact scenes from Mary and Joseph’s journey and the events of the first Christmas. Real animals used during the production add an important element to the observer’s overall experience.
“The idea of using actors and animals is to move from the physical relics to real scenes, with real people to help you picture the Christmas story,” Fleming said.
On the night of Dec. 7th, the role of Mary was played by Katherine Benefield, Joseph was played by Dale Jackson and a cast of 12 other individuals made up the three wise men, the little shepherd boy and the shepherds. A doll was carefully wrapped to portray the role of baby Jesus. Two sheep were carefully led across the stage by the little shepherd boy, who was played by Andrew David.
Neighbors Manelle Sturdivant and Elizabeth Brooks attended the Dec. 7th show together and were impressed with the production.
“It was everything that I thought it would be,” Sturdivant said.
“It was unbelievable. This was my first time seeing this show and I even plan to come back,” Brooks said.
All of the actors are volunteers and depending on the date of the show, the different roles may be played by different individuals.
The center’s Christmas shows are presented during the month of December. The last two opportunities to take advantage of these productions are the nights of Dec. 22nd and the 24th, Christmas eve. The walks are scheduled for 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. with the multimedia show following at 7:30. Space for these shows are limited and it is strongly recommended that you call the center to make a reservation before you come to either show. Reservation information is available by contacting the center at (706) 885-0363.
Most of the center’s activities for their December shows are outdoors in enclosed areas. The walkways and theater are covered from the elements but visitors should remember to dress warmly in the event of colder weather.
Throughout the year, the center offers an impressive calender of shows and activities that coincide with various religious events and holidays. “Follow the Shepherds” and “Under the Bethlehem Star” are the center’s December presentations for the Christmas season, “Follow the Cross” walks and “A Dark Night - A Bright Day” are March programs for this coming year’s Easter season. The center also offers conferences, a Holocaust remembrance ceremony, special group presentations and archaeological study tours to the Eastern Mediterranean.
All of the center’s activities and programs may be found listed on their website at www.explorationsinantiquity.com.