By Michael J. ARVIZU
The scene is all too familiar: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, is born in the middle of a cold night in Bethlehem after his parents Joseph and Mary, unable to secure lodging for the night, are forced to take shelter in a barn.
Surrounded by farm animals, the infant Jesus is born, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in a manger as his parents look down on him in adoration.
Jesus being born to Mary and Joseph in a barn, among the animals, has been represented in countless nativity sets throughout the centuries and is the primary setting for the story of Jesus’ first coming. Most Christian churches throughout the world use nativity sets as a focal point for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In a typical nativity scene, statues represent the Holy Family, various farm animals and the three magi.
In a live nativity, statues are replaced by real people – and a real baby.
On Saturday night, Dec. 8, Crescenta Valley Church hosted its annual live nativity and re-creation of Jesus’ birthplace. Held in the church’s front parking lot, the event was part of the church’s annual Live Nativity Experience presented by Kids’ Place! ministry.
Most churches display only a nativity scene and not the town itself. In an effort to make the story of the birth of Christ more interactive, the church chose to re-create both the scene of Jesus’ birth and the town of Bethlehem for guests.
“It makes it so much interesting,” said Live Nativity Experience curator and Kids’ Place! Pastor Beth Krausse. “It makes it alive; it brings it to life and makes it real.”
In re-creating Bethlehem, Krausse attempted to duplicate how the town’s commercial center might have looked like around the time of Jesus’ birth. It featured a blacksmith, a perfumer, a potter, floral booth, a candle maker and booths offering hummus, pomegranates, dates and pita bread. Free “Roman gold coins” were given to kids to spend at the booths.
Guests were also able to have their picture taken with cutouts of nativity scene characters and pet the sheep and goats.
Crescenta Valley Church has presented a live nativity scene for the past three years, but this is the first year the church has attempted to re-create Bethlehem. While researching how Jesus’ birthplace might have looked like, Krausse viewed the way other churches have done it.
“We won’t be 100% accurate,” Krausse said. “But we’re trying to make it where people can have fun and just explore what it might have been like.”
The live nativity featured church members dressed as villagers from Bethlehem who came to pay homage to the newborn Jesus. The Holy Family was played by Marisela Lopez in the role of Mary; Omar Lopez in the role of Joseph; and Savannah Lopez, 2 months, in the role of Jesus.
“It was a fabulous night. I was transported back in time,” said church member and Valley Village resident Bryan Miller. “My favorite part was all of the arts and crafts, and having the kids make candles and perfume. It’s a great time to celebrate Christmas and relive an event that happened 2,000 years ago.”
Krausse’s goal in the next five years is to increase the size of the town to encompass the church’s front and rear parking lots, complete with houses, where guests can mingle with the villagers.