EVERETT — You won’t get to visit the town of Bethlehem this year, but your family can still enjoy the Christmas story.
For the past five years, Everett Bible Baptist Church has transformed into Bethlehem circa 5 B.C. at Christmastime. But because of COVID-19, the congregation had to reimagine its Christmas event.
This year, the south Everett church is hosting a Trees of Christmas drive-thru tour Dec. 3-6 where families will read the Christmas story and see it expressed through decorated trees.
“We typically transform our fellowship hall into the streets of Bethlehem, but obviously with COVID this year, we couldn’t do that,” said Erik Sanders, senior pastor at the church. “So we reworked our Christmas event to be COVID-friendly.”
The Trees of Christmas tour is a short but meaningful one through the church parking lot. Each family will be given the book “What Is Christmas All About?” to read as they visit a dozen Christmas trees. Tune to 93.5 FM to listen to Christmas music as you drive by each decorated tree and hear the story behind it.
The children’s book “What Is Christmas All About?” is written by Rebecca Sanders, the pastor’s wife, and illustrated by Maria Lara, who does all the social media, graphic design and publications for the church. This was their first time working on a book.
“I kept having rhymes come to mind,” Rebecca Sanders said. “I didn’t want to create any kids’ poetry, but that’s all that would come to mind, so I just went for it and developed it from there.”
With each stop on the tour, Mom or Dad can read a stanza — or four lines of poetry — about the featured Christmas tree.
As you drive around, you’ll see a family tree, a baking tree, a Santa tree and a gift tree, before you launch into biblical narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ. As you read the Christmas story, you’ll then see the trees that represent Mary and Joseph, Bethlehem, the stable, shepherds, wise men, angels, star and cross.
“The idea is, as you’re driving through, you can read this narrative as you’re at each tree,” said Erik Sanders, who has been the pastor of church since 2006. “Then also we have an FM transmitter where you can tune into the radio to hear Christmas music and greetings from myself and the associate pastor of the church.”
In addition to the Christmas book, each vehicle also will receive goodie bags filled with activities and treats for the family to enjoy.
All 12 trees — from the House Family Traditions Tree Farm in Hillsboro, Oregon — were decorated on Dec. 2 by a different church family. All together, the volunteers strung up 30,000 lights over a dozen trees.
“We had a connection with a tree farm in Oregon, and they just gave us a phenomenal deal on these trees,” Sanders said. “These trees are anywhere from 12 to 15 feet tall.”
Rebecca Sanders’ favorite Christmas tree on the tour is the star one, plus the stanza that goes with it: “God chose a very special sign, a star to point the way, where the brighter Light, the Holy Child, was gently placed in the hay.”
The Christmas story as told in the Bible has become enshrined in nativity scenes and Christmas carols — most notably “O Little Town of Bethlehem” — during the Christmas season.
In the story, Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because there was no room in the inn, the baby Jesus is born in a stable and placed in a manger. His birth is celebrated by choirs of angels and shepherds, and he is given precious gifts by three wise men.
A tradition since 2015, Everett Bible Baptist Church has hosted The Night of Bethlehem. The church’s fellowship hall is transformed into a biblical marketplace, where families can try their hands at old-timey crafts like leathermaking and writing on parchment paper. Church choirs perform Christmas carols as families go from booth to booth.
“Everyone was in costume from Bible days in Jesus’ birth,” he said, adding that they also bring a children’s petting zoo, including a donkey and a camel. He said the Night of Bethlehem event, much like the Trees of Christmas tour, represents “the biblical narrative of Jesus Christ being born in Bethlehem, as one of the reasons we celebrate Christmas.”
What if Trees of Christmas is just as popular as The Night of Bethlehem? “Then we’re going to have to continue to do it,” the pastor said.
“We knew we still wanted to do some kind of event to give back to our community,” Rebecca Sanders added. “We know that everybody is itching to do stuff, so we sat around and dreamed up this idea.”
If you go
The Everett Bible Baptist Church, 805 W. Casino Road, Everett, is hosting a free drive-thru event where families will read the Christmas story and see it expressed through decorated Christmas trees. Trees of Christmas is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 3-6. Enjoy this event from the comfort of your own vehicle as you drive through the church’s lot. Tune your car radio to 93.5 FM for Christmas music on the tour. Each vehicle will receive goodie bags with activities and treats for the family. Call 425-353-6200 or go to www.everettbbc.com.