The Wise Men didn’t bring Wet Wipes, fuzzy socks or sippy cups to Baby Jesus.
But folks who attend “Back to Bethlehem” can bring these and other things to an event designed to recreate the town where Christ was born.
The public is invited and admission is free to the annual event planned from 5-7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 1440 E. Military Ave., in Fremont.
Those who attend can walk through a recreation of the streets of Bethlehem, munch on treats, make crafts, pet live animals and even post a prayer on a special tree.
Various groups will provide music and CDs of the Christmas story are available.
The streets of Bethlehem — situated in the church’s Community Life Center — will be set up differently this year than in the past, said Kristie Webb, administrative assistant.
But even before visitors hit the streets, they might notice large rented skylights which project large beams into the night. Even people from Omaha have driven to Fremont to find the light source — kind of like the Wise Men who followed the star to find little Jesus.
Guests coming in the main doorway will be greeted, given directions and a “passport,” telling them about the attractions.
Inside the Community Life Center (the gym), a centurion will have guests sign their names on a sheet of paper, reminding them of the census taken by Caesar — which brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago.
Webb said people from a variety of places have come to the event and written their names and hometowns on the sheet.
Children who attend will be given small bags with coins — play money — with which they can “buy” trinkets from the various shops.
As in the past, guests will be able to see a basket weaver, potter, candle maker. There will be a woodworker and a winemaker (who passes out small samples of sparkling, non-alcoholic juice). Both children and adults can have some of the grape juice.
Bethlehem merchants with grains and spices are being added this year.
There will be a fruit market, too.
Hungry visitors also may stop by the Blessed Bakery for some free cocoa and cookies.
As in the past, a live infant will play the role of Baby Jesus.
Visitors may bring gifts for Jesus in the form of items that will be donated to the Lutheran Family Services Boutique, which serves area residents who earn points to obtain them.
Items can include clothing in sizes from 2T up to a 7- or 8-year-old child. Things like underwear, socks, sippy cups, Wet Wipes, and monetary donations will be accepted to help LFS stock the boutique.
Attendees will find some live animals here, too, including a donkey and some goats.
A variety of music will be part of the celebration.
Cindy Skye will play the harp in the community center.
The North Bend Community Band will play from 5-6 p.m. in the worship center (church sanctuary), followed by children who will sing and other choirs.
In the chapel area, attendees can hear a bell choir.
The church will have the Prayer Tree again this year. Guests can write down a prayer on a piece of paper and put it on the tree so others can pray for them.
Webb said a variety of prayers have been placed on the tree in the past.
“Kids will put prayers on there, too, what’s important to them and needs to be prayed for — whether it’s even a monster truck,” she said.
Webb said it takes between 40 and 50 volunteers to provide the event. That includes those who become characters for the event, musicians, audio-video people, those who bake cookies and help set up the town.
“Sandy McDuffee, Kristen Rossow and myself are leading this year’s event, but wouldn’t be able to make the event possible without the many members of Good Shepherd who play such big roles in the event,” said Webb, who’s also a church member.
The church’s new pastor, Ryan Ankersen, is looking toward the future of the Bethlehem event.
“With Pastor Ryan being here now, we’ve talked, and I know he’s got some exciting plans that he wants to add to it next year,” Webb said.
In the meantime, Webb invites area residents to attend this year’s event.
“This is something we can do to bring people, to give the story of Jesus’ birth to those people who may not know who Jesus is or how that night transpired,” Webb said. “It’s a night of good fellowship, too.”