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Spirit of the season

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Churches to celebrate life, times and birth of Jesus with a lesson in history

By Christie Barlow
[email protected]

The holiday season brings a slew of activities and events. Often people can get caught up in the commercialism and forget what Christmas is really about, said John Cashwell, pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Harrisburg.

Kris Lomonaco, a member of Harrisburg United Methodist Church, echoed Cashwell’s feelings on the holiday. For her, the true meaning of Christmas is the story of Jesus’ birth, not the Christmas tree or all the presents underneath it, she said.

Both Providence Baptist Church and Harrisburg United Methodist Church are zoning in on the true meaning of Christmas this year.

Each church is holding a free event to honor the story of Jesus’ birth and provide some insight to what life was like, 2000 years ago.
Bethlehem Village will start at Providence Baptist Church on Thursday, Dec.6 and run through Dec. 9, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. each night. The vacant field next to the church will be transformed into a living history lesson and a celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Similarly, Harrisburg United Methodist Church returns with its Journey to Bethlehem production on Saturday, Dec. 15 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Both programs provide insight into the life and times during Jesus conception and birth. While Providence Baptist Church will actually construct buildings and build fires outdoors to create Bethlehem Village, Harrisburg United Methodist Church will transform their halls, classrooms and sanctuary into a village.

Visitors to Bethlehem Village will walk through the various huts, homes and workplaces from 2,000 years ago. Lit only by firelight, the roughly 30 minute guided tour involves about 150 to 200 people. Visitors can question the people they meet about their profession without the actors ever breaking character.

“They tell you about their occupation and about how it relates to other occupations,” Cashwell said. “It’s as much a history lesson as it is a biblical story.”

Harrisburg United Methodist Church’s Journey to Bethlehem gets things started with a meeting from the Prophet Isaiah. From there, visitors experience a series of events that led up to the birth of Jesus. Along the way, they can stop in the village to “spend” the coins they are given. Nearly all of the village homes and workplaces will have items they can sell to visitors. The experience is loosely guided, meaning as much time as wanted can be spent in the marketplace before visitors make their way to the inn.

“One of the things that makes us different is our marketplace,” Lomonaco said. “We have a lot of interaction there. Virtually all of the shopkeepers have something they can hand out. Our potter will actually be throwing and our carpenter will actually be working.”

Both events have an educational aspect to them, each one focusing on accurately portraying what life was like for people during that time. Actors remain in character throughout the night and are on hand to answer questions and tell people about what their professions.

“They do the best they can to make you fell like you’ll be traveling back in time,” Lomonaco said.

• Contact Christie Barlow at [email protected] or 704-789-9140.


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