VACAVILLE — The cold rain Friday night failed to dampen the Christmas cheer of New Hope Christian Fellowship’s recreation of Jesus’ birthplace.
The hot cider, hot chocolate and warm soups which helped ward off the chill evening were certainly a blessing to visitors who strolled through the Judean homes, shops, inn stable, bakery and market place that came to life at 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“This is sweet. They certainly went through a lot of effort to make it look like we are back in the time of Christ’s birth,” said Natalie Baker, who was sipping hot cider while watching Paula Jones spin wool as they did in those ancient times with a hand spindle.
Every 20 minutes shepherds would appear and announce that they had seen the signs that a savior would be born in the town. Soon afterward, “Mary” and “Joseph” would make their way through, asking for shelter at the inn only to be refused and end up in the town’s stable to give birth to baby Jesus.
This was part of the Fellowship’s event called A Visit to Bethlehem, which served both to teach visitors about the Christmas story while putting into the context of the time when Jesus was born. It also served as a fundraiser for Africa’s Hope, which will use any money raised to build schools in Africa.
“It is to introduce Jesus to the community and have a fun time,” said Jeff Ryan, the church’s worship director. “We have done everything we could to create a living community.”
That was even with the Roman centurions, played by Don Robnett, Tony D’Ambrosio and Phillip Copehaven, who were present to enforce the census ordered by Caesar Augustus of everyone in Judea that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
The holiday recreation of Bethlehem was started six years ago on a small scale at the church’s former home and expanded when they moved to their new home on Allison Parkway.
More than four dozen of the church’s parishioners dressed in clothing of the period and got direction from Ryan on how residents of Bethlehem acted during that time. They also created food, crafts and other goods that were sold to raise funds.
Jones, one of the crafters, said she loved playing her role, answering questions about her craft and “trying to stay in character.”
Carol Steffen and Diane Geisler expressed similar sentiments, selling the soap that Steffen made from scratch for Africa’s Hope.
“We love it,” said Steffen. “I look forward to this. It is one of my favorite ministries.”
Dianne and Ben Tenty, of Suisun City, were two of those to came to enjoy the event for the first time after hearing about it from a friend who came last year.
“A lot of detail went into this, and everyone is so friendly,” said Dianne Tenty.
Last year, between 1,500 and 1,600 people came by to enjoy the evening in Bethlehem. A similar number are expected to have attended this year once the weekend event wrapped up Sunday evening.