The folks at Family of Christ Lutheran Church, Ham Lake, invite you to travel back in time and experience the birth of Jesus.
But this isn’t just a drive-through live nativity. No, this is an interactive journey through the streets and pastures, the marketplace and the royal courts of Bethlehem.
More than 185 costumed characters populate the progressive scene, dotted with handmade wooden benches, grasses, rocks and trees, and filled with the sounds and aromas of that time so long ago.
As you visit the marketplace, you will smell the fishy scent coming from the fish market, roll bread dough with local bakers, practice weaving with experienced weavers, dye purple cloth to commemorate the birth of the king – and even drop a shekel in the beggar’s purse, if the spirit moves you.
Down the path, you can walk along with Mary and Joseph as they search for a place to stay. And then, when angels announce the birth of Jesus, you can rejoice and sing praises with the shepherds.
“Everything we’re showing is 100 percent based on biblical truth. It’s His story. We’re just portraying it,” said Family of Christ Church President Gary Kroll.
LuAnn Stroupe, producer and director of the church’s Journey to Bethlehem, said she and about 350 cast and crew members have been developing the journey since January.
“We’ve probably put about 10,000 man hours into it and God has been providing every step of the way,” Stroupe said.
God is even providing a Family of Christ church member’s newborn baby to play baby Jesus, she said.
“She’s having a boy and the baby is due on Thanksgiving, so we hope he’s not late,” Stroupe said during a Nov. 19 photo shoot at the church.
The free hour-long Journey to Bethlehem tours take place inside the church building and depart every six minutes.
“This is our gift to the greater community and we think it will be something people – especially the kids – will remember for a long time,” said Kroll.
“We just want to help people see the story of Christ unfold right before their eyes. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of blessing to work on this,” said Stroupe.
Family of Christ Lutheran Church opens its doors and invites community members to journey to Bethlehem this Christmas season. The free one-hour tours (co-sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans) take place inside the church building and depart every six minutes. Donations to the NACE food pantry are welcome.
Journey to Bethlehem tour dates and times are as follows:
Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, 5-8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 8, 2-5 p.m. (Plan to arrive at least one hour before closing.)
The church is located a quarter of a mile west of Highway 65 on Constance Boulevard at 16345 Polk St. NE, Ham Lake. For more information, call 763-434-7337 or visit www.foclutheran.org.
Sue Austreng is at