Entering its fourth decade as a Dawsonville tradition the Bethel Baptist Church’s living nativity took place during the evenings of Dec. 6-7. With twelve scenes and over 100 actors the yearly production takes the entire congregation along with help from family, friends and neighboring churches according to volunteer Gary Discharoon.
“There are typically not enough people in our church,” Discharoon said. “We rely a lot on neighboring churches and our friends and families.”
Although each scene is a stand-alone performance, complete with individual scripts, costumes and music, church-member Tracey Phillips serves as the coordinator for the entire production and he says that the popularity of the event has grown rapidly in just the past few years.
“We had a little more than 500 people come out in 2003 and by 2015 we had over 2000 people come see us,” Phillips said. “It takes the whole church to put it on, and as the church has grown so has the production.”
The performance started at 6 p.m. on the both nights and a large crowd had gathered for the event well before that time. Attendees waited in a long, snaking line to board tractor-pulled wagons for the roughly 45- minute trip through the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.
Pastor Jason Hamby greeted each wagon load with an introduction to what they were about to see and implored every visitor to “go back in time” and look upon the story through the eyes of someone there when it happened.
“Every year at this time we try to present to the community what Christmas means to us,” Hamby said.
Opening with the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would bear a child, the tour highlighted the important moments in an emotional recreation of the life of Jesus Christ from his birth, through his crucifixion and resurrection. Guests alternated between singing the familiar hymns that accompanied each scene to visibly weeping at the depiction of the torture and death of Jesus.
Local residents Pete and Linda Bearden were among the first visitors to this year’s rendition, a tradition of theirs that dates back as far as either could remember.
“We come every year,” Linda said. “And I think every year that this is the best one yet.”
“If that doesn’t touch your heart, then nothing will,” Pete said.