Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Villas will be taking visitors back 2,000 years this Saturday to experience the city of Bethlehem during the time of Jesus' birth.

Visitors will have to register for the census before entering the city, as Joseph and Mary did. They will then make their way down the city's main street, passing about 20 shops with tradesmen soliciting the sale of homemade goods, such as a leather shop, a toy shop and a sweets shop.

At each shop, passersby will get the opportunity to make and take home a small trinket and learn a bit about the craft from its tradesman. Visitors will be invited to stop and talk with the three wise men at the oasis about their journey following the star or the gossipers at the water well about any rumors swirling around town and, finally, to visit with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, who will be resting in the manger.

Holy Spirit Lutheran Church Pastor Leah Lavelle, who came up with the idea for the free annual Journey to Bethlehem event, in its fourth year, said the event is marketed as "a one-day vacation Bible school for families at Christmastime."

She said is not a live nativity. Instead the actors will be interacting and chatting with visitors as if they were actually back in the times.

One of the objectives of the event is to share some of the lesser-known stories surrounding Jesus' birth, Lavelle said. For example, Mary became pregnant out of wedlock, which at the time caused much upset and many rumors. The gossipers at the well are trained to talk about that and get people thinking about life back then.

The Journey to Bethlehem will include an extensive miniature city of Bethlehem display, a nativity scene featuring turtles and free adult and children Bible giveaway for anyone who may need one, Lavelle said.

Contact Elisa Lala:


If you go

What: "Journey to Bethlehem," an interactive Christmas event

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1

Where: Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, 1220 Bayshore Road, Villas

Cost: The event is free, donations accepted.

For info: Call 609-886-2414