During the Christmas season, area residents will have an opportunity to experience what it may have been like during Biblical times.

A joint effort between the Hermiston and Anchor Point Seventh-day Adventist churches will provide a live, dramatic tour during "Journey to Bethlehem."

The production includes outdoor structures, costumed characters, animals and activities depicting the sights, sounds and smells of times long ago. The churches will offer 20-minute dramatic presentations from 5-9 p.m. Dec. 12-14 at the Hermiston Seventh-day Adventist Church, 855 W. Highland Ave.

Andy Engelhart, along with other church members, began building structures for the holiday event during the summer.

Engelhart said he knew the structures would be needed for the walk-through dramatic production and decided to get a head start by constructing much of it for Jerusalem Marketplace, the church's summer Vacation Bible School.

The Rev. Sid Hardy is excited about the visual experience, where people can connect with the meaning behind Christmas.

"I think it really encapsulates the spiritual Christian view of Jesus at Christmas," he said.

"They will hear the sounds and smell the smells going back in time during the old Biblical days," added Charlotte Engelhart, publicity chairwoman.

She said more than 100 costumed characters will participate in the dramatic rendition of the birth of Jesus.

Hardy said the church has planned for the event for nearly a year after seeing a similar program at a sister church near Vancouver, Wash.

"I'm really excited," Hardy said. "This is probably our best community event. It's for anyone and everyone - whether you believe in God or don't. It's just a great experience."

Hardy said people will gather in the church auditorium to listen to music and then join tour groups of 10-15 people. As they're guided down a path, visitors will hear the story of the birth of the Messiah, including being stopped at the gate entering the city of Bethlehem, being turned away at the inn and finally arriving at the manger, where Jesus was born.

"There's a lot to take in when they're walking through," Charlotte Engelhart said.

There's no fee to enjoy "Journey to Bethlehem." Call the church at 567-8241 for more information.

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