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Church will present live nativity this weekend
Bethel nativity pic1
Angels and shepherds will welcome baby Jesus as the congregation at Bethel Baptist Church presents a live nativity this weekend. The free event on Friday and Saturday nights includes an elaborate, full-scale production depicting the story of Christ. - photo by File photo

The reason for the season will be showcased this weekend as the congregation at Bethel Baptist Church presents an elaborate, full-scale production depicting the story of Christ.

In its 26th year, the 13-scene live nativity will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Visitors can board tractor-drawn wagons to embark on a trip to a time when shepherds watched over their flocks by night and angels spread the news of Christ's birth.

"We're constantly making tweaks to scenes, but there's not a whole lot you can change. We've updated several of the scenes to try to make them better," said Lanier Swafford, whose family has attended the church for many generations.

Last year, an estimated 1,500 people attended the weekend event that involves the entire church congregation, their friends and families.

Kelly Crane and her young son, Hayden, were among the first in line last year.

Afterwards, she called the experience "magical."

"It's just magic to see the Christmas story come to life and they portrayed it so beautiful," she said. "I had tears in my eyes. It was fantastic."

Nadelyn Owens of Dahlonega was also moved by the production, which began with the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, followed by Jesus' birth and continuing through His life and crucifixion. It concluded with Jesus rising to heaven.

"It's amazing. They definitely put a lot into it," she said. "I believe that the Lord uses so many different things to teach people about him, and I definitely think he does that through this."

Initially, the production was held in the church cemetery, but is now scattered across 40 acres in the woods behind the church. Visitors are encouraged to dress warmly as the event includes a 45 minute hayride through the woods where the presentation is staged.

According to director Tracy Phillips, the live nativity is the congregation's way of emphasizing the true meaning of Christmas.

"That's what this is all about, reminding everyone that [Jesus] is the reason for the season," he said.

Afterwards, in the spirit of the season, the church will also provide dinner for its guests.

Soups, chili and warm beverages are served both nights in the church fellowship hall.

Bethel Baptist Church is located in northwest Dawson County at the intersection of Hwy. 136 West and Shoal Creek Road.

Admission is free.