MAPLEWOOD — Travelers along state routes 119 and 65 near Jackson Center have been pleasantly surprised by a series of barns that have been decorated for Christmas.
They don’t sport colored lights or inflatable characters. They tell the story of the birth of Jesus in silhouettes projected onto the sides of the barns.
There are seven scenes on seven barns, beginning at 18675 state Route 119. Drivers should travel east along state Route 119 until it dead ends into state Route 65, then turn left and continue on Route 65 to see the last three scenes. People should remain in their vehicles when looking at the silhouettes because the displays have not been set up in ways that are safe for people to walk around them in the dark.
They’ll see scenes from the biblical story as giant shadows created by shining spotlights on wooden cutouts: the first is the anunciation by the angel, Gabriel, to Mary. The second shows Mary on a donkey and Joseph, traveling to Bethlehem. The third is the star that “traversed the night,” as the Bible says. At the intersection of routes 119 and 65, is the nativity. The next, along Route 65, shows an angel telling the shepherds about the baby’s birth. The wisemen on the their camels are projected as the penultimate scene. The last is a cross marked “Peace.”
The project was the idea of Dr. Tim Woodward, of Maplewood.
According to his wife, Cindy, “We had seen different smaller ones.”
He purchased patterns for the wooden cutouts and created a few scenes in 2016.
“It started small,” Cindy said. “Angels and shepherds and camels last year.” The Woodwards enlisted the help of neighbors who all agreed to allow Tim to set up the cutouts on their properties.
“We couldn’t do this without the willing participation of everyone else,” Cindy said.
The figures are on properties owned by the Dan Steenrod, Harry Noah, Terry Poppe, Todd Lotz, Sandy Roach and Jim, John and Tim Davis families in addition to the Woodwards. In 2016, Michael Hoewischer painted the figures. This year, Jan Noah wielded the brush.
There are 19 cutouts in all. But the figures are not colorful. They are painted solid white so that the silhouettes become the focal point.
“We thought it would be really cool,” Cindy said. “The Christmas story is the message. It’s not an attention thing for us. It’s trying to tell the story. You see all the commercialized things. We thought it was important to make the story the focus.”
Brenda Baker, of Mapelwood, purposely drives along that route in order to see the projections.
“I travel that way quite a bit. It’s just a powerful message,” she said. “It puts Christmas into perspective. You’re driving along, and you have all these thoughts in your head: ‘I have to do this. I have to do that.’ And you come across this and you know what Christmas is really about. Christ came for us. It’s not about the presents.”
Cindy noted that last year, she and Tim received some anonymous letters thanking them for the beautiful simplicity of the display. One of them said, “I can feel Christ’s love.”
“I’m a sappy person,” Cindy admitted. “When you get those kinds of messages, you know you’ve hit the right chord. I would tear up.”
“It hits you right in the heart,” she said.
The silhouettes are usually lit from about 6 to 11 p.m. each night; although Cindy said there have been some problems with the programmed timers on some evenings. The display will remain up through New Year’s Day.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.