A behind-the-scenes look
Children grind wheat for the bakery. They head to the pottery shop and the toy shop, where they learn to make useful items from scratch. Young girls work alongside their mothers in the perfume shop. Adults bless their children, placing headbands on their foreheads.
Amid the bustle, children hear whispers of a miracle. “When you walk through the gates of Bethlehem, you can feel a difference,” says Cheri Alderman, coordinator of Bethlehem Village at Georgetown’s Christmas Stroll. “The children are engrossed. The workers talk to each other: ‘Did you hear that there was a baby born last night and that some people are saying Jesus could be our messiah?’ They tell the story of Jesus, about how there was no room at the inn so this baby had to be born in the manger.”
Telling the story of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem is a powerful experience that draws participants back year after year. “It’s a beautiful start to the Christmas season,” Cheri says. “It’s not all about the tinsel and all that goes along with that. . . . It’s because of Christ.”
Bethlehem Village began six years ago at Georgetown Church of the Nazarene. Though the event was then headed only by the church’s members and was promoted mostly through word of mouth, some 3,000 people showed up to see it. This year’s event will be the biggest yet because several area churches are partnering with Georgetown Church of the Nazarene to create the village.
“We’re pulling from so many different churches. This is the first year we are multidenominational,” Cheri says. “It’s grown five-fold in the last six years.” Churches that have lent members in the past and may partner up this year include Grace Bible Church, Celebration Church, River Rock Bible Church, First United Methodist Church, and Main Street Baptist. Cheri adds that the event would not be possible without the “wonderful sponsors” who contribute, too.
The most exciting part for Cheri is witnessing so many area children growing up in the Bethlehem Village volunteer family. Her grandchildren, now nine, eight and six, became involved as tots. “They get so excited about it. Just like in biblical times, children are working with their parents,” she shares. The kids who participate “are growing up knowing what it means to serve.”
Planning for this year’s event began in June. “We line up who will be leaders, who will help with sponsorship; we meet with costume leaders to determine if we need more costumes; we line up sound equipment. Then we start praying that God will bring the workers and the people,” Cheri explains. It takes about 250 volunteers and several sponsors to realize the event.
Organizers station a storage container at the church for the props. “The ladies that work in costumes get all the costumes numbered and ready for the 250 workers to come through,” Cheri says.
On the Thursday before the event, trailers arrive with tents and hay. The shops get set up on Friday. A local 4-H club brings in animals, including donkeys and goats, that afternoon. “The 4-H group checks on the animals, and they are contained inside fencing. We just have to make sure they have food and water. We have a faithful helper, Jeff Walls, who brings them in every year for us,” Cheri says.
After the Stroll, volunteers take everything down. “The trucks come back in, and we all get busy loading, cleaning up the hay, and turning the street back into Main Street, Georgetown,” Cheri says. “We get home very tired, but we rejoice and marvel at what the Lord has done for another year for our city.”
This year’s Christmas Stroll takes place Friday, December 5, and Saturday, December 6. Visit www.thegeorgetownsquare.com for more information.