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Bethel live nativity shows true meaning of Christmas
I-Nativity pic 1
Mary, played by Jessica Castleberry, learns of her impending pregnancy with the savior during the live nativity put on by Bethel Baptist Church this past weekend. The play took visitors through 10 scenes depicting the birth and death of Christ as the congregation conveyed the true meaning of Christmas. - photo by Allie Dean Dawson County News

Bethel Baptist Church's live nativity was presented this past weekend, and the elaborate 10-scene outdoor play moved many spectators to tears.

One local woman Rebecca Reed, 58, and her partner Daniel were some of the first to arrive on Friday evening in anticipation of the event.

Reed said she was excited to finally be able to see the nativity, after having had to work nights the past few years.

"I've always wanted to come, and now I'm just so excited, I'm like a child!" she said.

By the end of the play, after detailed scenes showed the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ, the life-like portrayal was too great for some. Reed wiped tears from her eyes as she watched, overcome with emotion.

More than 2,000 people were estimated to have come out this year to see the 29-year-old tradition in action. The event takes the entire 150-member congregation to pull off, and everyone takes some role in the preparation.

In the first scene, Mary, played by Jessica Castleberry, learns that she will give birth to a savior. In subsequent scenes, Mary and Joseph are denied a room at the inn and Jesus is born as shepherds, wise men and angels, singing "Away in a Manger," look on.

Scenes of Jesus' life follow, all the way through the last supper to the discovery of his empty tomb.

After the play, visitors were invited inside for hot soups and chili, sandwiches, drinks and other refreshments.

The event lasted well into the night, both Friday and Saturday, as temperatures dropped and hot chocolate was doled out to waiting guests. Congregation members prepared six tractor-drawn wagons, which held a few rows of benches each. When it was their turn, spectators climbed into the wagons and snuggled up in blankets, all eager and ready to see the show.

Pastor Jason Hamby prayed over each wagon before it headed into the darkness of the 40-acre woods where the play was staged.

"This is our outreach to the community," Hamby said about the nativity. "This is not just a performance, it's us witnessing to the community. There are so many people who don't know the story of Christ and think Christmas is about other things. This is the true story of Christmas."