Each year, West Grove United Methodist Church in Neptune transforms its Fellowship Hall and church grounds into an re-creation of the streets of Bethlehem on the night Jesus Christ was born.
Visitors to Bethlehem experience the sounds, sights and excitement of that first night. They interact with others milling about the busy streets such as the women at the well, beggars looking for alms, the Census taker, money changer, street musicians and the not to be forgotten Roman soldiers.
The crowded marketplace in Bethlehem was the heart of the town’s activities. The Potter is forming bowls and other vessels for household use; the carpenter is constructing and repairing implements and the tax collector “demands’ money from visitors who are in town to “register” for the census.
There are market vendors such as the basket weaver, yarn dyer and weaver, baker, fishmonger, seller of fine spices, cheese maker, henna artist, etc. who encourage the visitors to “buy” their exotic wares with the Roman ‘coins’ received when first entering the city.
Many of the market vendors are offering samples of fish, olives, dates, figs, vegetables, spices, cheese, honey, humus, bread, and other various foods of that time period.
All characters are fully costumed and engage visitors in improvisational conversation. The gossip along the streets involves all who will listen. “Have you heard the news?” “They say a women riding on a donkey, led by her husband, was expecting a child. What have you heard about it? Is it true?”, “Did she have the baby?”, “Have you seen the bright star in the sky? What does it mean?”
The innkeeper tells the visitors there is no room at the inn and to go elsewhere! At the end of the journey, visitors find Mary and Joseph along with Baby Jesus who is wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a hay-filled manger. Angels are singing carols of the first Christmas miracle. Shepherds are nearby watching over live animals.
Organizers of the event which includes a Live Nativity say it has become a meaningful Christmas tradition for all who attend.
The Streets of Bethlehem is open to the public Sat., Dec. 8 and Sun., Dec. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m.