Bethlehem in the Hills

Bethlehem in the Hills

A Hill Country Christmas Event by Doug Balentine
Sponsored by the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce
December 19, 1999
Web essay by Larry and Bonnie Arnold
Bethlehem, in the days of Caesar Augustus, came alive in the Texas Hill Country. On December 18 and 19, 1999, in Louise Hays Memorial Park, a group of volunteers gathered to build the village, and stage the Christmas story.

The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, with donated funds. Local residents gave time to build market stalls and a stable out of local cedar, and a well out of stone. Under the direction of Doug Balentine, they gathered costumes, and with two short rehearsals, became the people of Bethlehem. Roman soldiers keep order
Collecting Caesar's taxes On Sunday evening they greeted the travelers who walked down the hill, and 2000 years into history. Roman soldiers kept order in the larger than expected crowd of people who turned out for the event. And, of course, collected the taxes levied by Augustus.
In the marketplace the audience mingled with the cast. They talked of the times with people of the town, shared the square with goats, sheep, calves, and horses, and visited the merchants with their wares. The crowded marketplace
Bethlehem, the City of Bread Bread making was one of the best-represented crafts. After all, Bethlehem is known as "The City of Bread."
But there was also a basket weaver crafting strong containers from river reed. Basket weaving
The carpenter wields his tools And every town has a carpenter, plying his trade with tools, and strong hands and arms.
But no market is all work. As shadows lengthened wandering musicians played, surrounded by dancers entertaining the swelling crowds. Music and dancing
Would you like to hear a story? And storytellers used words and imagination to weave tales of the world around Bethlehem. Old stories from the holy book, and the Bethlehem-modern story of "The Carpenter's Way."
A choir of angels hushed the crowd. What was happening? Then, among the strangers was a son of Bethlehem, returning to the village of his fathers with his wife. Weary, they wandered through the marketplace, trying to find shelter from the approaching night. But the village was crowded. There's no room
The stable, and the manger There was no room, even in the inn. But the innkeeper found space in the stable for the expectant mother. There, among the animals, she bore a child, and laid him in a manger.
Soon, visitors began to arrive. Rough men, shepherds from the surrounding hills, wide-eyed with wonder. They were joined by three richly-dressed men from far away, bearing strange gifts. Visitors, from near and far
The villagers gathered in and around the stable, anxious to see the new baby and wonder at the miraculous events of that evening, so long ago. The audience joined them.

The baby born in the stable

Then, in darkness, it was time to go home, carrying the Christmas story a little brighter in their hearts.

The Christmas Story

Luke 2

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Matthew 2

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, "In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 'And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.'"

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

[Top of Page]
TalonSitePhotos by Bonnie Arnold, text and layout by Larry Arnold
Hosted by TalonSite.
© 1999 Larry and Bonnie Arnold, updated December 30, 1999.