It grew from humble beginnings, this little town of Bethlehem in Parker County, but it was eventually erected with more than a million dollars in private funds.
Originally it was only a speck on Bobby Cox’s 2,200-acre Weatherford ranch, a small set of rocks and cedar built so that Cox’s daughter, Tammy Lane, could produce films for church retreats.
But little by little, over a span of about five years, a first-century village took shape, authenticated by graceful stone arches and small dark shops with tiny windows, narrow doorways and earthen floors.
Peering down from a hill off Peaster Highway, the view is arresting, a window into biblical times.
In the dark, a large brightly lit star appears to hover over a stable.
It is a page out of Luke, chapter 2, an account of the birth of Jesus Christ.
About 30 actors from all over the Metroplex will bring that account to life for the next two weekends.
“Sometimes we lose the true meaning of Christmas,” Lane, creator and producer of the Star of Bethlehem Experience, said. “This reminds you of what it really could have been like that night.”
This is the second year in a row Lane has offered the living history venue, where participants — entering the village 20 at a time — see and hear the kinds of things that might have transpired on that very first Christmas night.
Last year more than 3,000 people took part, treading a dirt pathway where torches illuminate wooden signs filled with biblical prophecies, listening in on the conversation in shops and homes, watching as excited shepherds searched for the promised savior.
“It’s not like something you just watch,” Lane said. “You walk through the village, so it feels like you’re walking back in time.”
This year, Lane has added Roman soldiers, driving hard to complete a census. The soldiers will ride into the town on horseback, harassing the Hebrew people.