1,500+ turn out for live nativity [with gallery]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Mary was played by Tiffany Dean; Joseph was portrayed by Matthew McCollough and angel was Callie Caldwell.

Mary was played by Tiffany Dean; Joseph was portrayed by Matthew McCollough and angel was Callie Caldwell.

Organizers say more than 1,500 people visited Westview Baptist Church’s Journey to Bethlehem this past weekend.

This it the third year the Opp church has done a production on this scale. Every year it gets better, said music minister Roger McClain.

Visitors board hayride-style wagons to “journey” a trail through the woods to Bethlehem. The journey is staged on 17 acres adjacent to the church. Along the way are camp sites, farm animals, and an inn with a sign that says “no room.”

At the manger, participants hear the Christmas story from Westview pastor Bro. Gary Miller, who is dressed in period costume. Nearby, there are animals – including a camel, shepherds bowing, and angels surrounding Mary, Joseph and Jesus. At the conclusion of the Christmas story, vocalists Natalie Pinson and Kelly McCollough sing “O Holy Night.”

Sunday night, those involved in the production were still talking about the first journey on Friday night. When the two women got to the verse of “O Holy Night” that has the words “fall on your knees,” the camel knelt.

“That actually happened,” McClain said. “It was amazing. I think it was divine intervention.”

It takes a cast and crew of approximately 125 to stage the production. To make it as authentic as possible, the production is lighted with by campfires and torches, with only one silent generator in use for a special effect.

“The location makes it so authentic,” McClain said. “Before we ever started this, when the church bought this office, I walked the property one day. When I saw that gigantic old tree back there, I said to myself, ‘That’d be a beautiful place for a nativity.’

“The next thing we knew, there were so many guys out there cutting a path through the woods for this production,” he said. “Every year, we’ve made the trail better.”

McClain said the production requires many hours of behind-the-scenes work, but it is worthwhile.

“God was glorified, and I was proud of that,” he said.

This marked the third year Westview has presented the Christmas story in this fashion. A tent with coffee, hot cocoa and cookies is provided to keep people out of the elements while they wait to participate.