By B.C. Manion
Shopping, office parties and gatherings with friends aren’t the only things happening during the holiday season – special events also are being offered at various venues throughout northwest Hillsborough, Central Pasco and Eastern Pasco County.
Visitors to Richland Baptist Church in Zephyrhills can travel back in time at the church’s 16th annual presentation of “The Walk Through Bethlehem.”
Each year volunteer crews transform a patch of land near the church – roughly a third of the size of the ancient city of Bethlehem – into a city that feels like it is part of the first century town where the baby Jesus was born, said Roger Denis, a volunteer on the construction crew.
Those taking the walk will be guided through the reconstructed city, where they will see a census taker, city people of all ages, shopkeepers and Roman guards all in period costumes.
As visitors make their way through the city, they’ll hear a conversation between their guide and the various shopkeepers, as the story of the birth of Christ is told, and then they will see a live Nativity scene.
But the tour won’t end there, spectators also will see the crucifixion scene and the empty tomb.
The event is scheduled for 6-10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10; 6-10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 11; and 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12. The church is at 40443 Stewart Road, about half-way between Zephyrhills and Dade City. Admission and parking are free.
Another live nativity scene is planned on the grounds of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints at 7851 Lutz-Lake Fern Road in Odessa.
Three modern-day carpenters recently were working under a blazing afternoon sun, sawing wood, drilling screws and aligning walls as part of a massive effort to create the setting for a re-enactment of those ago days when a baby named Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem.
When the work is done, “A Night in Bethlehem, a Live Nativity,” will be presented to the public now in its fifth year, is being presented to the public by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 7851 Lutz Lake-Fern Road.
About 100 people are involved in the annual effort. Some transform the field on the east side of the church into the city of Bethlehem, complete shops, inns and a stable. Others assume roles in the nativity, or help with the logistics of putting on the event.
Those attending the event will be asked to sign the “census” as they enter the city of Bethlehem. At the gate, they’ll be asked to pay their taxes – a can of nonperishable food that will be donated to Metropolitan Ministries.
Once inside the city, visitors will find a gift shop, a carpenter’s shop, a pottery shop, a bakery, a candle shop and a Hebrew school.
Kids will be able to play with a dreidel, learn to write their names in Hebrew and sample some pita bread, dried fruit, oranges, olives and cheese.
The spectators will see a depiction of Mary and Joseph looking for a place for stay, said Marilyn Thompson, a volunteer who pitches in each year on the project. Mary will arrive on a horse. Inn keepers will turn away Mary and her husband, Joseph. One innkeeper, however, will allow the couple to stay in a stable.
Near the stable, shepherds will tend their sheep and three kings from the Orient will come to pay homage to the baby Jesus.
Music will accompany the various scenes at the live nativity.
Presentation of the live nativity will happen every half-hour, beginning at 6:30 p.m., with the final presentation beginning at 8:30 p.m. Free refreshments will be served in the church.
ending at 9 p.m. Free refreshments will be served in the church. The event is scheduled nightly, Dec. 9-12.
In another Christmas celebration, Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, on North Dale Mabry Highway, just north of Van Dyke Road, will be hosting “A Home Town Christmas,” a dramatic musical presentation.
Senior Pastor Ken Whitten and his daughters, Kim Whitten and Tana Whitten Knouse, wrote the script for the production, which includes a 300-voice adult choir, 75-piece orchestra and 125-voice student chorus. The cast is an ensemble of about 20 members.
The production, which runs about two hours, establishes a setting, Creates a sense of connection with the audience and delivers a spiritual dynamic, said Ron Upton, the church’s minister of music and worship and producer and director of this show.
Hundreds of people spend countless hours to pull off the annual event, Upton said. “It’s a major undertaking.”
Besides the singers, musicians, actors and script writers, there also are ushers, greeters and parking attendants, he said.
This year’s event is at 7 p.m. nightly, Dec. 10-12.
Tickets are available at www.idlewild.org, or may be purchased at the door. They sell for $12, $10 and $8 each.
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