By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“We have reinforcements coming!” Susan Hanyen said gleefully as she stood on the front lawn of the New Utrecht Reformed Church in Bensonhurst on Saturday.
Hanyen, vice president of the church’s consistory, or parish council, was in charge of the live Nativity scene the church was presenting as a pre-Christmas treat for the neighborhood.
Volunteers play the Biblical roles of Mary, Joseph, an angel, shepherds and a shepherd boy, standing in a stable with a manger and a small doll as a stand-in for the baby Jesus to give local residents a chance to feel like they’ve gone 2013 years back in time to Bethlehem.
The church, located on 18th Avenue and 84th Street, offers a live Nativity every year. The church also rents sheep, goats and a donkey from an animal farm to make the scene look even more authentic. After all, Jesus was born in a stable.
On Saturday, a new group of volunteers showed up in the afternoon, ready to take their places in the stable. The new group relieved the volunteers who had been standing out there for three hours.
“This is wonderful,” Hanyen told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Now, we’ll be able to keep it going for at least another hour. We were supposed to close up shop at five. We’ll probably stay open until six."
No one was complaining about the extra hour of duty. With temperatures hovering at the 70-degree mark, it felt like summer instead of the first day of winter.
“Isn’t this weather amazing?” Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) asked. “I remember years when it was so cold, we’d be out here freezing,” he told the Eagle.
The live Nativity drew a large crowd of spectators, including families with young children who treated the fenced-in stable like it was a petting zoo. The kids stuck their little hands through the wooden fence to pet the sheep.
The goat, meanwhile, munched on tree branches that were hanging close to the ground.
The New Utrecht Reformed Church has been sponsoring a live Nativity scene for 57 years.
"We began the popular tradition in 1956. It's actually kind of a 'Christmas card' we offer to our neighborhood and beyond," Hanyen said.