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Walk the streets of Main Street Bethlehem in Burnet

Volunteers as Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus at Main Street Bethlehem, which is December 6-8 and 13-15 in Burnet. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

A beggar stands at the entrance of a courtyard where families are gathered around cooking fires. Ducks and chickens flutter about in cages as people pass. Laughter rings out from a nearby fire, while others talk in hushed tones. Amid the people, all dressed in clothing common to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, word begins to spread of a baby born in a manger. Not just any baby — he is rumored to be the Messiah, the son of God.

“Have you seen him?” a shepherd asks someone on the street. He turns to another person, this one carrying a smartphone and wearing 21st century clothing. “Have you seen him? The child, the one called Jesus?”

The shepherd moves on, still searching.

Welcome to Main Street Bethlehem, a live nativity of Biblical proportions. The program, a gift from First Baptist Church of Burnet to the world, returns Friday-Sunday, December 6-8 and 13-15, from 6-9 p.m. Main Street Bethlehem is located at 300 E. Washington St. in Burnet, about two blocks east of the town square.

Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Free coffee, hot chocolate, and cookies are available.

A merchant on the streets of Bethlehem sells lamps and listens to rumors of a special baby born in a manger. She is just one of many members of First Baptist Church of Burnet who volunteer each year to recreate the world as it was when Jesus was born 2,000 years ago. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Main Street Bethlehem began as a basic live nativity scene with a few simple sheets and other small items to tell the story of the Jesus’ birth. For the church, it was a great way to share the first Christmas with others. Enthusiasm over the project led to the building of a set, which expanded over time into multiple buildings and streets.

Now, Main Street Bethlehem encompasses a permanent structure built to resemble what the little town would have looked like at the time of Jesus’ birth. The townspeople as well as Roman soldiers and shepherds are portrayed by volunteers who stay in character, no matter what visitors ask them. It’s one of the things that makes Main Street Bethlehem such a powerful experience.

Church leaders have shared stories of how people have come to rekindle their faith or begin their faith journey after walking through the live nativity. In past years, Main Street Bethlehem has drawn more than 28,000 people over the two weekends it’s open each December.

Be prepared to wait in line to gain access to Main Street Bethlehem as organizers allow only a certain number of people through at a time. The line moves fairly quickly and smoothly, however. Over the years, some have found waiting in line one of the best parts of the experience as they get to meet and visit with the people around them.

Some even bring lawn chairs to sit in as they wait for their chance to enter the ancient city. (You have to leave the chairs outside, so be warned.)

The event, which is outdoors, can be canceled in rainy or inclement weather, so check First Baptist’s Main Street Bethlehem and Facebook pages before going. Also, neither backpacks nor pets (except certified service dogs) are allowed inside the gates. Vendors and soliciting are not allowed on either church property or in the parking lot.

Within the city of Bethlehem, you’ll find merchants, craftspeople, townsfolk, tax collectors, innkeepers, and Roman soldiers all interacting with each other and visitors. All are seeking the newborn babe said to be lying in a manger somewhere in town. So, where is the manger? Where is this baby? He’s there, along with Joseph and Mary. You just have to seek him out.

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