The story of Christ's birth in Bethlehem was brought to life at the Haviland Christmas Pageant.

Editor's Note: The history portion of this story came from the Haviland Christmas Pageant program.

There were camels and sheep and a donkey and lots of other animals along with a cast of 70 singers and actors that brought the Haviland Christmas Pageant to life in Hockett Auditorium on the Barclay College Campus in Haviland this weekend.

The pageant tells the story of the birth of Christ from the angel telling Mary she would become the mother of the messiah to the adoration of the shepherds and the wisemen. The pageant is held every two years. In 2019, the pageant will be held in the new Ross-Ellis Center for Arts and Ministry. That made the performance this year a special event because its the last time it will be held in Hockett Auditorium where it has been held since 1991.

In his remarks about the pageant, Barclay College President Royce Frazier said the new building is scheduled for completion on Dec. 20 and students will attend classes in the building at the start of classes in January.

He is anxious to see what the pageant will look like in the new building. There will be changes in the pageant when the move is made including changes in set pieces that have been used in the pageant for many years.

But most importantly, the pageant tells the story of the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ and wherever the pageant is held, it will continue to tell that story.

Since 1991, the pageant has transformed Hockett Auditorium into the streets of Bethlehem, the stable where Christ was born, the hillside outside Bethlehem were the angels announced the birth to the shepherds, the garden were the angel announced the birth to Mary and King Herod's palace.

The show begins with a profit sharing the Old Testament prophesy of the coming Messiah followed by the timeline and action that leads to the birth of Christ.

The story is a mix of dialogue and lots of music performed by local residents, Barclay College students and some out of town performers also. All ages get involved with the production from children to teens to college students to all ages of adults plus the baby Jesus who is just a few weeks old.

The music and script tells the story of the life and times of the people in Bethlehem and the presence of Rome in the country.

An important part of the performance is the use of live animals. In the opening sequence, children parade through the "streets" with a variety of live animals including a couple of sheep. Herod makes his entry on a horse, Mary rides a donkey with Joseph holding the reins, and a highlight of the pageant is the arrival of the Wise Men on camels complete with an entourage for each.

Costuming is an important part of the performance including the subdued color of the clothing for the residents of Bethlehem, the bright red and silver of the Roman soldiers, Kings Herod's royal robes, the white and gold of the angel Gabriel to the bright colors of the Wise Men and their entourage.

The pageant started as a Sunday School program in 1985 in the basement of the Haviland Friends Church with seating that formed streets and crude cubicles where Joseph and Mary stopped to find a place for the night.

The response to the pageant was so good that Friends Church Pastor Rev. Paul Romoser realized they needed a bigger space for the next year and in 1986 they presented the Pageant in the Banbury Auction Center. Sets were added thanks to the Haviland Art Club. Herb Frazier wrote his own script with a narrator, Johndy Lewis, reading from one of the set rooftops.

In 1987, Janet Johnston revised the scripts, actors were given speaking lines and the program came alive. Live animals, including camels were added in 1988 resulting in a more realistic experience that played to standing room only audiences.

In 1991, Banbury Auction Center was sold and Barclay College agreed to let the pageant take place in Hockett Auditorium. The pageant became a joint effort between the college and the Friends Church. A door in Hockett was remolded to accommodate the camels. About 1,000 people see the pageant every year.

@GaleR_Tribune