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Travel to Bethlehem — in Wiggins — this weekend

Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus -- portrayed by a real baby in perhaps his or her first acting role -- are in the ‘stable’ inside the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Wiggins during a past ‘Bethlehem’ presentation. The church presents the Christmas story every other year, and pastor Robby Rikard said people from ages 2 months to 90 years can be seen in the production. This year’s presentation will be Dec. 2 and 3.
Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus -- portrayed by a real baby in perhaps his or her first acting role -- are in the ‘stable’ inside the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Wiggins during a past ‘Bethlehem’ presentation. The church presents the Christmas story every other year, and pastor Robby Rikard said people from ages 2 months to 90 years can be seen in the production. This year’s presentation will be Dec. 2 and 3. Courtesy Mike Cain

For two nights this weekend, the campus and sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Wiggins will be transformed into the small town of Bethlehem. And everyone is invited.

“Bethlehem” will be presented 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the church, at 219 Second St. North, Wiggins. There is no charge.

“Bethlehem” is presented every other year. The first production was in 1982 and was presented sporadically in the following years. Starting in 1997, FBC decided to present “Bethlehem” on a biennial basis.

Today, about 200 people take part in the Christmas performance, many working both behind the scenes and as part of the cast. Visitors walk through about 26 stations, including a marketplace, a shepherd’s field and stables, the inn where Mary and Joseph sought a room.

The culmination of the journey is in the church’s sanctuary, where a live Nativity showcases the Holy Family as Christmas music plays in the background. Music Director Chris Babb lines up scores of musicians and singers to present the music both nights.

The hours are after dark, so torches illuminate much of the route, including where Roman soldiers stand guard or are on horseback in the little town of Bethlehem. After all, Joseph and the very pregnant Mary made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem because the Roman governor commanded a census of Judea. Because Joseph belonged to the house and line of David, which was in Bethlehem, they had to go there.

“We do mission work all over the world,” Pastor Robby Rikard said. “But we look at this as our mission project for our community. Making the Christmas story come to life means so much to us.”

The cast, he noted, gets carefully scrutinized for anachronisms such as any cell phones or wristwatches. And their ages run the gamut.

“We will have 2-month-olds up to around 90 years,” Rikard said.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

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