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Church turns back the centuries

Stroll through Bethlehem is a chance to see a first century marketplace and shepherds searching for a baby in a manger.

December 09, 2009|By Joyce Rudolph

Village Church members are turning back the pages of time, allowing the public a glimpse at what life might have been like when Jesus was born.

The free family event, Journey to Bethlehem, is in its sixth year and takes place from Friday through Sunday evenings.

It’s a way for the church to connect with the public, said Richard Zemaitis, set construction coordinator.

“It’s our outreach — our gift to the community so our whole congregation is involved,” he said.

The scene should help neighbors experience the first century of life in Bethlehem and discover the surprise of the birth of Jesus, said Senior Pastor Wade Mikels

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“There’s a drama that unfolds as guests enter the village,” he said. “The people of Bethlehem are in place, while the guests are journeying through the town of Bethlehem.

“People have come up to me and said this is really authentic, what a beautiful way to start our Christmas.”

Shops are set up in the town of Bethlehem with actors performing as blacksmiths, leather workers, bread bakers, tailors and spice traders bringing samples from around the world, Zemaitis said.

“Roman soldiers will be strutting around in their armor and keeping peace in Bethlehem,” he said.

One of the new aspects this year is a 70-foot-long mural in front of the church, which paves the way to the church courtyard where the village is set up, he said. Zemaitis is a prop maker for the entertainment industry, but he usually makes smaller items, he said. He has worked on Star Trek “Next Generation” and “Enterprise” shows.

“The mural has a desert scape, mountain scape, pasture lands and Bethlehem, with links to the stable where the Romans are, so it’s going to be a whole panorama,” Zemaitis said.

An interactive concept will be led by soldier Brian Delaney who will see if the public guests are agile enough to become a Roman solder.

Delaney helped bring a lot more vitality to the marketplace this year, Zemaitis said

“He gets himself into the character of what they did at the time,” he said. “He invested time in getting himself learned at how a Roman would fight.”

Guests can also try their hands at a hammer and anvil, and pound out a horseshoe, or blow a horn the tinsmith has made. At the tailor shop, they can try on period clothes.

For the living nativity, real families will reenact the birth of Jesus, Zemaitis said.

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