Bethlehem Marketplace in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

“It’s like opening the Bible and walking inside.” The reaction is common among visitors to Bethlehem Marketplace at Murfreesboro’s Southeast Baptist Church. The annual walk-through drama has its 22nd staging 1-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, December 11th & 12th, inside the church’s family life center.
Over its previous 20 years, organizers have counted about 122,000 total visitors to Southeast’s re-enactment of how the village of Bethlehem might have appeared the morning after the birth of Jesus. Event atmosphere and surroundings are those of 2,000 years ago. Characters wear authentic period costumes. Roman soldiers, prisoners, tentmakers, weavers, carpenters, merchants in shops, census-takers, and others line the streets. Talk of Marketplace characters is from that long-ago era, and modern-day things are unknown. Live camels and other animals lend authenticity.
Visitors have come from several surrounding states as well as Tennessee, and many who trod the streets of the village are repeat viewers. Since 1990 church counters have tallied average annual attendance of over 7000. The drama is put on entirely by church members as a gift to visitors. There is no admission, no donation accepted, and nothing actually is for sale. Tour time averages about one hour. Most of any wait is spent enjoying Christmas carols in the church sanctuary. Pictures from past Bethlehem Marketplace and more information about the event appear on the church Internet site at www.sebaptist.org.
Southeast is located at 708 Minerva Drive in Murfreesboro.

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