More than 7,600 miles and 2,000 years separate modern-day Burbank from Bethlehem of Judea during the rule of King Herod. That time and distance seemingly evaporated as guests to the First Presbyterian Church of Burbank were transported halfway around the globe and back in time as the Olive Avenue church presented their fifth annual Bethlehem village and live nativity show this past weekend.
Produced by Kathy Purdy and under the direction of Alex Wysocki, the church's staff and parishioners welcomed community members to their parking lot that had been magically transformed into the little hamlet that served as the birthplace of Jesus.
As guests arrived, they were given coins they could exchange for goods in the village. They were also welcomed to taste various foods from the time of Christ's birth, and have their photos taken with shepherds and their sheep, donkey and goats, Roman soldiers, wise magi and a heavenly host of angels.
The highlight of the two-evening event was a live performance of the Christmas story as relayed in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
"The intent [is] to remind everyone of the birth of Jesus Christ," said the church's senior pastor, Ross Purdy, who went on to relate an interesting story of the Christmas pageant's star.
"The church has used a real newborn to play the part of baby Jesus for the past years, but we had trouble casting this part this year," Purdy said.
Then, Hepzibeth Pardo, one of the helpers of the event, made a call to a wrong number. It turned out that the person who answered the phone had a newborn son and was willing to have him cast as Jesus, Purdy added.
Coming all the way from Lake Arrowhead, Danny Meisenbach Jr. played the role of the newborn king with aplomb.
"This wrong number incident provided some excitement that God found an actor to play Jesus when the church could not find anyone to do the part," Purdy said.
Playing the parts of Mary and Joseph were Loretta and Chris Sigala. Others who took on the role of the wise men, census takers, soldiers, villagers, the inn keeper and his wife and various shop owners included Lynn Seip, Alejandro Pardo, Rob Wheeler, Tim Black, Dave Lessley, Ron Cwik, Erik Adams, Kaye Norris, George Mauney, Mel Meredith, Christine Gille, Tom Meacham, Ralph Hitchin, Jay Jennings, Kyle and Cathy Kelley, Katy and Heather Purdy, Lizzy Maradiaga, Brittany Lewis, Stephanie Fallon, Dana Elliot, Erika Reyes, Bella Pardo, Claire and Jillian Flynn, Joyce and Jane Lee, Xochiti Meile, Sydney Olfus, Leann Bermudez, Jeni Nash, Evelyn Fischer, Sheridan Renfore, Lottie Jennings, Ella Jennnings, Keiko Parrott, Carol Flynn, Margaret, Joey and Andrew Bogenschutz, Lea Starina, Jacob Purdy, Holly Hitchen, Maddie Williams, Shannon and Rosemary Romo, Xander Candib, Elijah Parrott, Carmen Beaumont, Evelyn Weare-Lindfors, Allen and Logan Corcorran and Kathy Bond.
Others who helped bring the Christmas story to life included Marcia Baroda, Mervena Couser, Dorothy Harkness, Laura Marro, Brian Lockwood, Lorraine Girod, Delmy Bermudez, Carmen Blair, Lydia Tracy, Holly Noguera, Jean Skinner, Pat Griffo, Juli Gilbert, Paul and Tad Frantz, Carol Cwik, Mary Jane Weaver, Skip Flora, Lessley Lewis, Lorraine Essex, Nancy Cobb, Michael Wapner, Paul Wemyss, Andrew Trotta, David Pardo, Roy Jasso, Ivan Romo, Carolyn Jackson, Ralph Beauchamp, Alice Allen, Charles Jeffery, Frances Kim, Aleta Smith, Roy Jasso, Greg Vosper, Rob Wheeler, Violet Mahoney, John Ennis, Ivan Romos, Steven Pierce, David Pucio, Dylan Bollinger, Andrew Kasberg, Ed Chambers, Dave Herman, John Vandergiessen, Pat Leppig, Arthur Baum and Abbey Wysocki.