BENSONHURST — The front lawn of the New Utrecht Reformed Church looked like a scene straight out of the New Testament on Dec. 15 as visitors were treated to a real-life depiction of the Nativity.
Volunteers dressed as Mary, Joseph, shepherds and the Three Wise Men all stood in a makeshift stable set up on the lawn to portray the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. The scene also featured a manger filled with straw. A doll was used as a stand-in for the infant Jesus.
Several animals, including sheep, roamed the area around the stable to the delight of children who enjoyed petting the docile creatures.
The scene unfolded over a period of two hours on Sunday afternoon. Church leaders left the front gate open to allow visitors easy access to the grounds so they could take in the Biblical tableau.
The New Utrecht Reformed Church, located on 18th Avenue and 84th Street, has been sponsoring a Living Nativity for many years.
“We consider it to be our gift to the community,” Susan Hanyen, vice president of the church’s consistory, told the Home Reporter. “It’s a tradition that started in the 1950s. There was a time during the 1980s and 1990s when we stopped doing it. We brought it back several years ago and we are so happy to present it to the community.”
This year’s Living Nativity was postponed a day. It was originally scheduled to take place on Dec. 14. But the rainy weather on Saturday led the consistory to make the decision to move the event to the following day. “We were lucky because the animals were still available!” Hanyen said. The animals come to the church for the day courtesy of a farm in New Jersey.
The Living Nativity provides a chance for local residents to celebrate Christmas in a special way, according to Hanyen. “There was one little boy who came with his father. He asked his father, ‘What is this?’ and the father answered, ‘This is the First Christmas.’ The boy looked at everything with a sense of wonder in his eyes,” she said.
In another touching moment, a man came upon the Living Nativity and started to sing a hymn, Hanyen said.
The Living Nativity also had special meaning to church members. The event took place almost a year to the day the sanctuary officially reopened following years of repairs that had kept the building closed. “It was a nice way to celebrate the anniversary of our reopening,” Hanyen said.New Utrecht Reformed Church was founded in 1677 and was originally located on what is now the corner of 16th Avenue and 84th Street. The congregation moved to the church’s current site in 18th Avenue and constructed a new church building in 1828.