Each December for the last 21 years, the star of Bethlehem has led families by the hundreds to Santa Clara First Baptist Church (SCFBC). They come to witness a free, live re-enactment of the birth of Christ in the town of Bethlehem of Judea, recreated as it was in the days of Christ in the 40,000-square-foot church parking lot.
Sheep tended by shepherds graze outside the town wall. Menacing Roman guards wearing red capes and wielding spears control the crowds that enter the town gate to explore the busy marketplace and register for a required census.
At interactive stalls in the marketplace, children are invited to spin wool and make stone walls and beaded jewelry. Robed iron forgers and basket makers and bread makers demonstrate their crafts.
Then the crowd witnesses the arrival of Joseph, leading Mary on a donkey to a stable, where she gives birth to the baby Jesus. A live gir — a kind of cow from India — rests in a corner of the stable.
Shepherds following the star of Bethlehem arrive in search of Jesus. Then three richly-robbed wise men arrive in a procession led by a flame thrower and a live camel.
“It’s a great outreach to the community to show the story of the meaning of Christmas and the birth of Jesus,” said SCFBC youth pastor Jonathon Fung.
Fung said that the extravagant production is funded by donations from Bethlehem Santa Clara visitors and annual fundraising by the church, located at 3111 Benton St, Santa Clara.
The real Bethlehem is located in Israel almost seven miles south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. The 2018 Bethlehem Santa Clara was presented evenings Dec. 6 to 10.