Christmas celebrants came from as far away as Jackson to experience Bethlehem as it was in the time of Jesus’ birth this past weekend.
The biennial production, put on by First Baptist Church of Wiggins, is an immersive experience in which attendees are guided through the village, hearing tales of the birth of a Savior from women at a well, shepherds by a campfire and others conducting the business of the village.
It culminates with a live nativity scene in the church’s sanctuary.
“I would say it was very successful,” said Pastor Robby Rikard. “We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 people come through.”
Rikard said the church has always put out comment cards, but had a much larger response this year.
“We got tons of them,” he said. “Many said how much they appreciate all the hard work that goes into putting this on and several people thanked us for the conversations they were able to have with their children about the reason for the holiday.
“It provides the opportunity to change the focus from presents to the true meaning of Christmas.”
The guided tour through the village is the perfect lead up to prepare attendees for contemplating the Christ child and his meaning to those of the Christian faith, according to Rikard.
“What’s great about it is the drama leading up to that moment at the manger,” he said. “I had one lady tell me she experienced such peace as she approached and observed the manger scene.
“She said it served to restore and reinforce her faith.”
The final product belies the amount of work which goes into the production.
“It was three weeks ago we began cutting the timbers for the structures and preparing the area for the village,” the Pastor said. “There is an incredible amount of work which takes place behind the scenes.”
He credited Mike Cain and her daughter, Christy Hendrix, with recruiting volunteers and making sure everyone’s costume was period correct.
“They really do a good job of making sure no one has a cell phone on or a wrist watch,” he said.
Now, the structures will be dismantled, the costumes will be packed away, livestock will return to fields and barns and planning will begin to do it all again in 2021.