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Shepherds listen the Angels sing during the Living Nativity scene hosted at the Bedford Presbyterian Church Sunday evening. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

Bedford Presbyterian Church takes journey back in time

BEDFORD - A bit of Bethlehem came to town Sunday, as the Bedford Presbyterian Church's annual live nativity made its way down Church Road in Bedford Center.

Parishioners transformed themselves into wise men, shepherds, angels and Mary and Joseph as they re-told the story of the nativity in various locations on the church property.

"We take people on a journey to experience all of those characters," said Gretchen Gray, who has organized the event for the past six years, adding that participation by the public has a way of reinforcing its message.

"Rather than just sit and watch it, we take people on the journey with us," Gray said.

Different types of live animals were donated by Charmingfare Farm. Sheep, goats, a donkey, even rabbits and hens were brought in past years.

Gray said the animals provide authentic noise, similar to what would have been heard 2,000 years ago.

Caroling prior to the nativity presentation was held in the church's sanctuary, and hot chocolate and refreshments served in the church hall after give the church an opportunity to provide fellowship to the community, said Gray.

"It's one of the largest outreach projects that we do," Gray said. "It's our gift to the community."

Gray said one of the more interesting stories involves the innkeeper's home, which is across the street from the church and the first stop on the journey of Mary and Joseph.

The home changed owners a few years ago, and when it was sold, the new owners were told about the nativity and agreed to take on the part of innkeeper.

Gray said the house changed hands again this year, and the new owners are also interested in keeping the tradition going.

"We're delighted that they were willing to keep going with it," she said.

Those attending said the event provides them with a sense of spirituality often missing from the holidays.

"Christmas is not about the hubbub, it's not about the rush - there is a reason for the season," said Kevin Wooldridge, who was participating in the nativity for the first time. "It's not 'happy holidays,' it's merry Christmas."

Jennifer Chew, who has lived in Bedford for the past 11 years, attends the nativity every year, and her children have been angels in the past.

"It's great to have the community here," she said.

Linda Muir was attending the event for the first time.

"I think that anything that keeps Christ in Christmas, I'm all for it," she said.

Gray said the live nativity reminds people of the true meaning of the holiday season, and she enjoys doing it.

"Amid the hustle and bustle, and shopping, it's nice to get back to the root of the story," she said. "It's my favorite Christmas thing to do."

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