By Mary O’KEEFE
For Christians, Christmas is a time of remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. Often this is a direct contradiction to the fun of Santa and shopping. It is not often that an event can be a reminder of the time of Christ and be fun at the same time, but that is exactly what happened at a recent nativity event at the CV Church.
“[Explore Bethlehem] started about three or four years ago and is the brain child of Beth Krause, our children’s pastor,” said CV Church Senior Pastor Scott Wood.
The church’s parking lot was transformed with booths and animals, including camels like those that would have been found at a village centuries ago.
“We wanted a replication of what life would have been 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem,” Wood said. “Last year was our first year with camels.”
There were booths offering Middle Eastern food including pomegranate seeds and yogurt. There were games and crafts that included a leather bracelet making booth. There was also a petting farm with goats and ducks and, of course, the camel rides which were very important.
About 50 to 75 volunteers brought the ancient village to life. There were even Roman soldiers walking around and being very “old Roman” as they barked orders to the crowd around them.
One of the most important aspects of the evening, or of any event the church hosts, is the diversity of their volunteers.
“I grew up in the West Indies,” Wood said.
His was one of the few Caucasian families in his neighborhood, he added. Because of that he became empathetic to what it is like to be the minority in an area and his neighbors were able to learn about him, his family and their customs.
“It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” he said.
Because of that upbringing Wood felt it was important to celebrate the diversity of every community.
Wood said their church has a history of reaching out to the community with active events like their Easter Egg hunt that saw about 1,500 people join in the fun. They had hosted a Fall Family Festival in the past but ended that about 10 years ago. Wood said they are planning to bring that event back, though.
“We are a volunteer church. God has called us to love him and to love others,” he said. “We do that by serving.”
As the nativity event was coming to a close, Roman soldiers came out and ordered the people to “make way.”
“The Roman Empire has decreed that a census must be taken,” said a Roman soldier, aka Chuck Holler.
He then ordered all to return to their ancestral home; it was then that the live nativity began with Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus in the manger. There were little angels and Wise Men as well.
The evening allowed people to have fun, enjoy a good meal, be creative at the craft booths and learn a little bit about what it was like in the village Jesus was born in.
CV Church is located at 4001 La Crescenta Ave.