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Holy Trinity Church brings Bethlehem to Gainesville

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What would Mary and Joseph have encountered on the night when Jesus was born? They might have seen other families making their way to be counted in the census. They would hear stories of Herod and perhaps see Roman soldiers along their way. They would no doubt hear the braying of donkeys or the bleating of sheep.

More than 2,000 years later and nearly 6,000 miles away from the place of Jesus’ birth, participants can place themselves in the Nativity at the Bethlehem Walk at Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville Dec. 21-22.

The halls of the parish are transformed into the little town of Bethlehem, where “visitors consider the circumstances under which God came into the world, unnoticed in a busy little town, unable to find a room, and into a poor family who had to borrow an animal's feeding trough for a cradle,” said Margi Loesel, a parishioner.

The event, in its third year, began after Loesel experienced a similar walk at the Parkwood Baptist Church in Annandale.

“The walk is a creative experience that touches all the senses to help guests meditate upon the gift of the Incarnation, and truly rekindle the wonder of the magnitude of God's love for us,” said Kimberly Dalrymple, a parishioner. “It is an opportunity for our parish to be a light in our community, and we are so grateful that it has been so well-received.”

It takes a village with more than 100 parishioners helping stage the event. Some serve as actors and greeters; others assemble or take down the town; some are seamstresses; and others loan items. Many will dress up and play the role of citizens of Bethlehem, Roman soldiers and even the holy family.

Visitors will find themselves becoming a part of the census as they follow Joseph and Mary. After walking through the town inside, they are ushered outside to the stable with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus surrounded by live animals.

Dalrymple believes the church is the messenger of truth, beauty and goodness.  “The Bethlehem Walk wants to be an instrument of that message,” she said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017