A circle of curious young faces ringed the kraal set up on the lawn of historic New Utrecht Reformed Church, eager to get a close-up peek at Baby Jesus — or maybe at his mom as she passed by in flowing robes, or even a couple of Wise Men in their finery.
The Living Nativity — a seasonal staple outside the Bensonhurst house of worship for 50 years — was staged in all its biblical majesty by Friends of Historic New Utrecht, who created the time-honored manger scene — billed “Bethlehem Comes to Bensonhurst” — as a gift to the neighborhood.
“The church wants to maintain the tradition,” he said of the Yuletide spectacle, which originated in 1956, and has kept the faithful flocking to the 333-year-old church to load up on the spirit of Christmas.
Michelle Paradies and Dominick Gervasi held court as Mary and Joseph, and were only slightly upstaged by a petting zoo of livestock, including a donkey, llama and sheep, which drew gasps of wonder and “awwws” from one and all.
As dusk stole the sun out of the sky, a peace lamp bathed the scene in a bright light — part of a mission campaign by the Austrian Broadcasting Company to aid handicapped children and people in need.
Festivities continued in the evening as Friends arranged for a free concert by the North Shore Pops Concert Band in the parish house on 84th Street and 18th Avenue. The quaint structure dates back to 1828 and is famous for its stained-glass windows, pipe organ, architecture and “little Dutch doors” leading to the pews.