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Bringing Bethlehem to life

Lutheran Church of Our Savior held A Journey through Bethlehem over the last two weekends. The re-creation of the small village included a live Nativity scene.

Bethlehem was a small town of about 150 people. But the year Jesus Christ was born it became the center of some amazing events.

People from all over flocked to the small town as ordered by Caesar for the census. Additionally, the Son of God would be born in a cow's trough in the sleepy little town.

In the walls of its Family Life Center, Lutheran Church of Our Savior recreated the Bethlehem of yore and the story of Christ's birth. And it has been a big draw.

More than 500 people took time over the last two weekends to check out a Journey through Bethlehem.

Gayleen Edwinson said creating the streets of Bethlehem was no small task.

The church put together the production to share the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Edwinson, who organized the event with her husband, Terry, said they tried to give people an idea of what the little village would have been like including the sights, sounds, smells and tastes.

"I think it makes it more real seeing what it would have been like," said Nancy Lange, an Our Savior member who participated with her husband and two granddaughters in the re-creation.

Decked out in era-appropriate clothing, Lange said she really enjoyed taking part in the production. Lange filled in several roles during the four nights the event took place including stints in the pottery shop and selling bolts of fabric.

"It's been really fun," she said about acting the parts.

Heather Johnson, Lange's granddaughter, not only played the role of a seamstress but actually showed off her skills as well. The 13-year-old sewed all of her family's costumes. While it was a lot of work Johnson said she enjoyed making them.

Johnson wasn't the only one who volunteered her talent towards the production. Throughout the year of planning, more than half of the congregation took part in one way or another.

After hosting a similar event last year, organizers started planning this year's Journey through Bethlehem in February. Last year the church borrowed sets from a church in Shakopee. For this year's re-creation church members built their own set. In all Edwinson said thousands of man-hours went into creating the village.

The church even had real babies to portray the baby Jesus.

"It's been a tremendous amount of work," said Edwinson.

The work paid off though. The church held tours through Bethlehem Dec. 12 and 13 and Dec. 19 and 20. Over the first weekend they had close to 200 people wander through. On the second weekend more than 300 people attended.

"Most of the people heard about it through word of mouth," said pastor Neil Ristow.

People have come from all over. Edwinson said they even had one woman visiting the United States from England come through,

"We've had tremendous feedback," said Edwinson.

Lee Knutson took the tour Dec. 20 and was impressed with the production. Knutson has been to Bethlehem and said he was impressed with how well the church portrayed the real village.

"It was quite amazing," said Knutson. "I thought having the end of the story with a live baby was interesting."

Having a live baby play Jesus impressed a lot of people, said Edwinson. The church had several babies play the role.

Edwinson said the church plans to host the event again next year and already has some ideas on how to improve.

"We hope to expand it and have some ideas on shops we could add," she said.

Overall though Edwinson said she's happy with how everything turned out.

"It's been very rewarding."