Living display of Jesus' life draws record crowds
STERLING HEIGHTS -- Bethesda Christian Church's popular drive-through Christmas display logged more visitors than ever this year, as modern worshippers sought a leisurely -- and warmer -- way to celebrate the season.
More than 7,000 people wound through the church property at Metropolitan Parkway and Schoenherr during the four-day "Living Christmas Story" last week, the biggest attendance in its three-year history, organizers say.
The homage to the life of Jesus is "a gift to the community," Senior Pastor Analee Dunn said. "We don't always have things people can come to and feel comfortable ... especially if you're on a tight budget. Each year we get a little better at it."
More than 500 volunteers took part in the event that featured outdoor scenes stationed around the property. Drivers watch the story while creeping along in their vehicles and listening to the narration on a complementary compact disc. The event featured 11 scenes, each depicting an aspect of Jesus' life, including the angel visiting Mary, the Last Supper and Jesus walking on water.
Mary Cherry, 91, said the retelling of Jesus' life had a profound impact.
"We went through the gates of Jerusalem, and it felt like we were right there," said Cherry, who attended a preview show with seniors from Maple Village Retirement Center in Bloomfield Hills. "I have never seen anything like it. It was remarkable.
"It was such a contrast to what's going on in the world around us."
With the economy in the doldrums, "people are looking for hope," said the Rev. Timothy Helland, a family pastor at the church. "The story of Jesus is a story full of hope."
Denise Johnson said it was a necessary reminder of what the holiday is all about.
"Unfortunately, we sometimes forget the meaning of Christmas," said Johnson, a Medilodge employee. "It can see how it would become a family tradition. It was fabulous."