On Jan. 5 and 6, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Little Rock will host its first live Epiphany walk-through display, complete with actors, music and hopefully sheep.
“People need to know Christmas isn’t over the day after Christmas,” said Elizabeth Reha, diocesan director of family life and parishioner at Good Counsel who is spearheading the event. “… It’s like any time you have a baby born, you don’t just say, ‘Oh, baby’s born, see ya.’ No, lots of people come, ‘Oh, the baby, let’s go check on the baby.’ When the baby comes home from the hospital, ‘let’s go check on the baby.’ The first time the baby comes to the church, everybody’s excited. Every time the baby comes, we’re spending time with the baby so why wouldn’t we spend more time with Jesus?”
Reha said she hoped for a celebration that would be open to the public, after the rush of Christmas, but before the Christmas season ends. Because of the diversity of the parish and surrounding neighborhood and the prominence of Epiphany in Hispanic culture, they settled on retelling of the Nativity story on Epiphany.
The event will be free, but will request gifts “for baby Jesus,” a donation of socks and gloves for local charities, Reha said.
In the hallway between the parish’s gym and former school, participants will enter to large scrolls on either side of the hallway, crossing between English and Spanish so participants can mingle, Reha said.
From there, they’ll enter the outdoor complex, commonly called Mary’s Garden, where illuminated walkways will lead them past sheep, shepherds and townspeople played by both children and adults from Good Counsel.
“We see it as an experiential piece. So these people don’t have lines, they are just part of the characters and the ambiance of what’s going on. We really wanted to focus on the crèche,” Reha said.
The walkways will lead to the crèche where Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus will stay.
“We actually have a baby that’s been born recently, that’s been baptized recently, that we think we’ll be able to have” as baby Jesus, Reha said.
There’s no way of knowing for sure if cats and dogs were present at Christ’s birth, but Reha said they will likely be at their event, along with sheep and, if possible, a donkey.
Spanish and English choirs will perform Christmas carols, which will be heard throughout the walk-through. In the parking lot, or in the case of inclement weather in the cafeteria, bales of hay and a fire pit will be set up and coffee, cider, hot chocolate and traditional Rosca de Reyes (the Spanish version of King Cake) will be served.
Reha said she’s been envisioning this event for years, but a visit to Israel last year prompted her to set it in motion with pastor Father Josh Stengel’s approval.
“When you go to these various places where they say the shepherds saw the star, where he was born, that just brings a whole new experience when you actually live through your yearly Advent and Christmas time,” Reha said. “I think it’s really inviting people to celebrate beyond what the world says. Beyond our tradition of just Christmas day, our season continues on. We celebrate that and don’t miss that opportunity.”
The first walk-thru will take place Saturday, Jan. 5 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. On Sunday Jan. 6, it will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m., allowing the children in the religious education program to enjoy the walk-through.
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