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For five summer evenings Calvin Christian Reformed Church, Oak Lawn, Ill., transformed into the village of Bethlehem. Neighborhood families were invited to see, hear, touch, and taste what life was like in Jesus’ day.

“We’re coming to Bethlehem! We want to see Jesus!” said three children in one family as they arrived on the last evening.

Actors presented part of the story of Christ’s birth one evening each week, culminating with the baby Jesus on the final week.

Those who attended were assigned to one of the 12 tribes of Israel and gathered under tribal banners. Tribal leaders led them in Jewish customs, such as using the mezuzah (a box containing Scripture verses that is attached to doorposts) and reciting the Shema (the Jewish prayer of faith made up of Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21 and Num. 15:37-41). They explained that these customs are a way of saying, “We open our home and hearts to the Lord.”

When the shofar (ram’s horn) sounded, the tribes visited the marketplace, where they ground grain, shaped bread, and dyed cloth.

At each shop they heard talk of a coming Messiah. Participants also played games, sang, danced, and tasted Bible-time food.

Calvin CRC hosted the event in conjunction with First Methodist Church next door.

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