BELLEVILLE - Bethlehem came to Belleville on Saturday night as angels, shepherds and sheep joined Mary and Joseph to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble manger.
The event began with a parade of participants along North Kish Street, leading to the rear of Victory Antiques, where it was transformed into a hay-strewn stable. About 80 people joined in caroling and listened to the Christmas story.
For this fourth annual event, the drama class from Belleville Mennonite School, under the direction of teacher Ann Quinn, joined in to provide costumes and characters. Bradley Hartzler was Joseph; Cassandra Byler was Mary; and a cooperative 9-month-old named Eden Sims was baby Jesus. Daniel and Katie Peachey led three sheep in the parade and to the manger scene.
Sentinel photos by DANIEL BRANNON
Biddie, an ewe, takes part in the live nativity scene at Victory Antiques in Belleville. Biddie is especially gentle, said previous owner Max Zook.
Cassandra Byler, portraying Mary, holds Eden Sims, portraying Baby Jesus, during a live nativity scene performance held Saturday behind Victory Antiques in Belleville. The nativity also featured live farm animals.
One of those sheep, a ewe named Biddie, has been the unsung star of the nativity each year. Bottle fed as a lamb, she is especially gentle and did not mind children nestling in for photos and petting after the event.
Max Zook, Biddie's previous owner, said the sheep has been used in church services as well as the nativity and often took walks with him and his wife, Brenda, just like the little star of the nursery rhyme, "Mary Had A Little Lamb."
Not only is Biddie very gentle, she is a very good mother, Zook said. Biddie usually had two lambs per pregnancy, but once has three lambs and took care of each of them.
He traded Biddie to the Peacheys for use of their pasture and they have continued the tradition of bringing her to the live nativity.
Other students in costume were Garrett Byler, Rebekah Byler and Christopher Hayes, as Magi; and Kaitlin Bell and Alyssah Aldinger as shepherds. Aunnah and Josiah Nagel, of Lewistown, donned costumes to become an angel and a shepherd.
Christmas cookies and doughnuts filled the bellies of attendees as they were treated to harp music, played by Abby McMillen.