Bill Lowe helps build the sets for the Old Bethlehem Village at Martinez United Methodist Church.
Photo by Jim BlaylockVisitors to Martinez United Methodist Church will come as close as they can to experiencing what Mary and Joseph did as they walked into Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born.
Luminaries light a path to the walls of ancient Bethlehem, where census takers and Roman guards stand. Once inside the walls, a re-creation of the village where Jesus was humbly born in a manger comes to life as church members play the roles of prophets, tax collectors, carpenters, wise men, shepherds and merchants peddling their wares including baked goods, pottery, leather items, baskets and candles.
"They are trying to present just a glimpse of what it might have been like the night Jesus was born," church pastor the Rev. Peggy Lowe said.. "That involves culture and just the atmosphere of the town. We try to do that as best we can."
The fifth annual Bethlehem Village is open to the public from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the church's property at 3614 Washington Road, Martinez. There is no charge for the event, but the church will be collecting canned food items for the needy.
The story of Jesus' birth will be told through the innkeepers including how a young couple with child was turned away and the excitement in the air over a new Messiah being born beneath a glowing star. Almost all of the congregation is involved in the village, Lowe said. Older people who cannot participate physically in the production donated money or made costumes, she said.
"It is a good way for everyone to be involved," Lowe said. "Usually, the youngest baby in the congregation gets recruited as the baby (Jesus)."
The village is presented with as much realism as possible. Many of the animals at the village are live. Some electric lights are used for practical purposes, but participants must remove watches, rings and eyeglasses for authenticity.
It gets bigger and bigger every year, Lowe said. Each year, planning and research begins in August for new shops to be added and things get started.
"This year, we are going to do a Synagogue school for the first time and kind of show a little about how younger children might have been learning and studying," Lowe said.
The congregation works hard on the village each year to remind visitors of the true meaning of Christmas. "People go away having the sense of mystery and the event itself," Lowe said. "It is a positive kind of effect in people's lives from what we have heard and what people have told us."
For more information, call the church at (706) 863-6541.
Abilene Baptist Church also has a unique and entertaining tradition of celebrating Christmas, a 35-foot singing Christmas tree manned with more than 100 singers. The 24th annual singing Christmas tree takes all year to plan and practice. It involves the singers, a cast of 70 actors and a 35-piece orchestra to accompany the holiday musical.
Home for Christmas, written by Jack Reynolds, will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday in the church sanctuary. Admission is free with tickets. are available only for the matinee performance. Courtesy tickets can be used on all other show times. Tickets expire 15 minutes before show times, when ticketless patrons may enter and all guests will be seated as space permits.
For more information, call the church at (706) 689-1774 or visit www.abeline1774.org.
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