by Nathan Warner
An ambitious, large scale, “live” nativity is coming to Zimmerman this December behind St. John Lutheran Church.
Church music and worship team head Barry Bluhm is producing and orchestrating the event that will come to life from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16.
“It’s going to be an extensive re-creation of the Christmas story,” Bluhm said.
He isn’t kidding, either, with 54 people involved in the process so far, including technicians, actors, cooks and more.
“It’s going to be a cross between the Renaissance Festival and Macy’s eighth floor at Christmas,” he says, “only with a Christmas Nativity perspective.”
The entire event will be held in the field lot behind the church and will consist of constructed “scenes” broken into sections that are dedicated to parts of the Christmas story.
Visitors will immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and smells of Palestine as they walk through the scenes, journeying back and through time.
Each section will begin with a storyboard or poster introducing the scene with appropriate Scripture verses.
“As visitors walk into the first section, they will encounter a scene of Gabriel’s visitation to Mary, telling her she will have a son named Jesus,” Bluhm says. “When they enter the final section at the end they will experience the scene of Mary, Joseph, and young Jesus fleeing to Egypt as Herod decrees the murder of all children in Bethlehem.”
The scenes in-between will be set in Bethlehem and the hills around Bethlehem, populated with church members playing the parts of busy city folk, soldiers and shepherds. Live animals will also be apart of the production.
“We’re going to build a large section for the entire Bethlehem scene,” Bluhm explains, “where visitors can travel through the town as if they’ve just arrived with Mary and Joseph, avoiding the Roman soldiers patrolling the streets that are filled with haggling buyers and sellers in markets.”
In the Bethlehem section, the central point will be the manger scene and the birth of Jesus. From “Bethlehem,” participants will wander out of the “city” to the hills, where the shepherds are visited by the angels declaring Christ’s birth.
Bluhm, who is the owner of Midwest Sound and Stage and the managing director of Central Minnesota Production Group, stage division, has an extensive background in entertainment.
“This is a huge undertaking for a church of St. John’s size,” he said. “It’s not a Sunday school program — its much more elaborate and detailed.” Bluhm says that his objective is to bring the congregation of St. John Lutheran closer together through the production process while bringing the area community together through the performance.
He hopes to pick up the life of Jesus again with a similar production during Lent and Easter, next year.
At the live Nativity, visitors can gather around the bonfires to warm up while treating themselves to free apple cider, coffee and hot chocolate or they can dig into some lentil soup and flatbread on their way through the “city” of Bethlehem.
The event is free and open to everyone. Call Barry Bluhm with questions at 320-333-6297.