Dusty May Taylor on her Journey to Christmas. Photo courtesy of CTS

A five-person journey to find the spirit of Christmas

  • December 7, 2011

This Christmas season, the stories of five diverse people and their journey to the Holy Land to discover the season’s true meaning is airing on CTS’s Journey to Christmas.

The goal of the four-part documentary series was to discover if there was more to Christmas than is typically experienced in North America, said producer Karen Pascal.

“We’re so caught up in the commercialism and the busyness and the gift-giving and I think the true meaning of Christmas has become something really distant,” said Pascal.

The series premiered Dec. 3 and 4 and will air again Dec. 17 and 18.

Guided by a local scholar and other experts, the group travelled to the various places of the biblical Nativity story, including the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built over the cave thought to be the birthplace of Jesus, Nazareth, the hometown of Mary and Joseph, and Ein Kerem, home of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.

For three weeks, the group travelled non-stop from one end of Israel to the other, said Pascal.

“We literally sent them on a trek to follow the route that Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem… And all the time that they’re journeying, they’re doing their own internal journey,” she said.

“It was a very physical experience for them because we wanted them to roll up their sleeves and really understand the culture.”

The group was made up of Dusty May Taylor and Drew Marshall, Christians, Rory Nisan, an agnostic (whose father is Jewish and mother is Catholic), Kim Kakakaway, a Christian with aboriginal heritage, and Nazreth Mebrahtu, who was raised in both the Protestant and Coptic Orthodox traditions.

“It’s just trying to respect the questions people are asking and then search honestly for the answers,” said Pascal.

“It has a tremendous respect for the wonder of the story. It helps people to understand what was going on in history, what was going on in culture in that moment that was part of the ethos that was perfect for the birth of Christ.”

Taylor, a writer and singer from Hamilton, Ont., wanted to go on the journey to feel close to God as her faith in Christ got her through very troubled teen years.

“I had a lot of suicidal urges when I was younger and my faith in Christ kept me from going down that road and I’m very grateful,” said Taylor. “Anywhere I can be close to God, anywhere I can learn more about my faith, I’m going to want to go there. And I don’t think you can get much closer from a physical standpoint in this world than going to Israel.”

Taylor said the experience stripped her of her commercial view of Christmas and taught her Christmas is a historical event.

“That’s very uplifting considering how out of control things get in North America.”

Visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, had the biggest impact on her, she said.

“It was a very emotional experience for me and I remember feeling reverent for a lot of days afterward. It carried me through for the rest of the journey afterward.”

To read more about the series, see www.journeytochristmas.com.

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