Communities experience living city of Bethlehem

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The city of Bethelem materialized before the eyes of children and adults in Chelsea and Wilton last week. Merchants inside tents in both cities invited families in to view their wares and hear the story of Jesus.

New Heights United Methodist Church and Wilton Baptist Church made this possible through their “A Night in Bethlehem” events.

“There’s so much stuff going on this time of year that it’s sometimes easy to get away from the meaning of Christmas,” said pastor Keith Beaty. “We put on the event to remind everyone why we celebrate in the first place.”

The family-oriented events allowed kids to make jewelry, roll out dough in a bakery, create dyed pieces of cloth and listen to Middle Eastern music — all in an effort to show them what life was like during the time Jesus was born.

Beaty’s wife Michele got the idea for New Heights’ event last summer.

“I just really wanted to spread the message that Christmas is about Jesus’ birthday, not about presents,” Michele said. “We wanted to take them back to the time of his birth.”

Church members in Wilton created their event last year and carried it on again this year.

“This is a very interactive event,” said Laurel Burns who organized the event in Wilton. “And the great thing about it is that the family goes through the marketplace experiencing the story together.”

Visitors and church members even had to give their names to the census taker as they entered the city. Even though the event was meant to remind people of the spiritual aspect of Christmas, the kids didn’t leave empty handed. They did receive gifts from booths — toy flutes, playdoh, miniature nativity figurines and warm cinnamon rolls.

Instead of jumping in Santa’s lap at the end of the event, kids got the chance to dress in ancient attire and take their photo with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

In all the Beaty’s said it took 90 church members to pull off the event that was attended by about twice that many community members. This was New Height’s first year to host the event but they expect it to be recurring.