The Blessed Virgin Mary, portrayed by Serafina Higdon of Saint Faustina Parish, presents the baby Jesus to the people of Bethlehem.

NANTICOKE – A beloved holiday tradition at Saint Faustina Kowalska Parish returned this year with an in-person audience – much to the delight of a thankful community.

On Dec. 3 and 4, the parish presented the play “Miracle of Bethlehem,” depicting the birth, life and death of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at the Saint Faustina Cultural Center. In 2020, the production took place virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reviews of this year’s performance were quick and immediate.

“I think it was wonderful. I had a great time. I have a great time every year,” Christie Davison said.

Jesus, portrayed by Ted Mike of Saint Therese Parish in Shavertown, carries the Cross during the play’s depiction of the Passion of Christ.

“I had the goosebumps and the tears,” Dorothy Hudak added. “It was extraordinary. It just brings Christmas into your lives. The ending is breathtaking.”

The play features dozens of actors. Many belong to the parish and its youth ministry program. The play also uses live animals from Endless Dreams Animals in Benton.

Ted Mike portrayed Jesus in this year’s production for another year.

“It’s one thing to talk about the Christmas story. It’s one thing to see it on TV but to sit here in person and see the actors and see all that is going around, see the animals … it registers and it touches your heart,” he explained.

Judy Minsavage directed this year’s production once again. Throughout the past year, she has fielded many questions from people curious to know if the play was going to return to a live performance. She believes the play helps many rediscover the joy of Christmas.

Ted Mike portrays Jesus Christ at the Resurrection during the play ‘Miracle of Bethlehem’ on Dec. 4, 2021. (Photos/Dan Gallagher)

“I really do feel that is what the Miracle of Bethlehem is really all about. It’s getting the people back into going to church, celebrating the Christmas holiday as well as telling the story and the true meaning of Christmas,” she said.

That message resonated with many of the people who turned out for the performance.

“There’s been so much commercialism in the holiday that we forget the true meaning (of Christmas), and the true meaning of it is we’re celebrating a birthday. It’s one of the most miraculous birthdays that ever occurred,” Jerry Hudak explained.

“It’s like we’re right there with them,” Shelly Marcella added. “This is the true meaning of Christmas. This play brings out the joy in me. I just love this play.”

When the first production of “Miracle of Bethlehem” took place more than ten years ago, it was held outdoors. The weather didn’t always cooperate.

“When we first saw ‘Miracle of Bethlehem’ it was held in a field. I recall being all wrapped up in my parka and hat,” Chester Zaremba said. “When we saw it the first time, the conclusion was so dramatic that it burned a hole into you.”

For those who helped pull off the production, they are happy to know that it helps to bring their parish – and entire community – together.

“I feel sorry for the people who didn’t attend because they don’t know the treasure that they’re missing,” Jerry Hudak said.

CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton filmed this year’s performance of “Miracle of Bethlehem” and is making the performance available to everyone in the Diocese of Scranton. The showing premiered on Dec. 15. The following are the dates for the rebroadcast: Dec. 16 at 10:30 a.m.; Dec. 21 at 8 p.m.; Dec 22 at 10:30 a.m.; and Dec. 27 at 10:30 a.m.