Aiming to ‘bring peace’: Georgetown’s live Nativity set for second Christmas season

Dave Wilson, left, and Dan Premo help to build the new mobile nativity. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — A live portrayal of the Nativity of baby Jesus is coming to The Circle in the heart of Sussex County for a second Christmas season.

Organizers and local churches are finalizing reenactment scheduling, and volunteer builders are applying finishing decorative touches on a new, mobile stable for the Nativity, which will be displayed during a seven-night run beginning Friday and concluding with a candlelight event Christmas Eve.

“We’re looking to spend that week leading up to Christmas with our community once again,” said K.C. Conaway, one of the event’s lead organizers.

Nativity programs will run nightly from 6-8.

This year’s live program is, of course, being staged during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been so unstable this past year. This year, we feel that we need something that we can all come together and just be a part of and realize what the true meaning of Christmas is all about,” said Mr. Conaway, youth minister at Dagsboro Church of God. “We feel that that does bring peace in times when things are in kind of chaos. Right now, we feel that Jesus brings peace to all of us. That is what we all need this year.”

Several assembling sessions have been held, facilitated by support from Dukes Lumber Co., local builder Dave Wilson and others in the building/construction trades.

The angel and Christmas Star tower above the stable and the live nativity on The Circle in Georgetown during the 2019 event.

“Those folks have stepped up once again,” said Mr. Conaway. “This would not be possible if it wasn’t for those folks.”

“It’s the reason for the season. It’s the community outreach,” said Mr. Wilson. “Everything we do here is all for the community, all for trying to save lives and let people know the real meaning of Christmas.”

Nativity organizers have received permission from the town of Georgetown, and approval of their COVID-19 plan was received from the state Dec. 3, Mr. Conaway said.

“We’ve got a plan in place. We’re going to try to do our very best to keep everyone safe. We’ll have hand sanitizer out there. We’ll have signage for people (to) wear their masks if they can’t maintain 6 feet of separation,” he said. “Hey, if you don’t want to come, that’s fine.”

Dukes Lumber’s Kolby Dukes said he hopes the Nativity raises spirits.

“It’s a shame to see all the things getting canceled because we’ve been locked up for a long time and people want to get out and feel community. We think the Nativity on The Circle is a way we can do that safely,” he said. “We’re going to be outside. We’re going to be taking all the precautions. For those that are high-risk, they can ride around The Circle and enjoy it from the view of their car. Park across the street there and roll your window down and sing Christmas carols with us.”

The 2019 live Nativity, spurred by the Good Ole Boy Foundation and its outreach network, attracted huge turnouts and rave reviews in its two-week run on The Circle last December.

Aaron Mitchell is among the volunteers building the new mobile live nativity that will be inside The Circle in Georgetown Dec. 19-24.

Interestingly, that project was born out of backlash and criticism stemming from a Georgetown ordinance governing use of The Circle that prohibits unattended displays and structures. Georgetown Wesleyan Church had previously placed an unattended creche on The Circle.

“Part of the story from last year is Richard Wilson with the Wesleyan church in Georgetown always put out the Nativity — a little plastic Nativity — on The Circle,” said Mr. Dukes. “(Then,) Georgetown came out with this ordinance that said you couldn’t put the Nativity out on The Circle because it was unmanned. You couldn’t have unattended displays out there.

“So the community came together and said we believe in having the Nativity out there to show the good news of Jesus. If we can’t leave a plastic Nativity, then we’ll be the Nativity. That was the driving force last year.”

The initial stable structure has been retired, replaced by a mobile setup built on a trailer that will enhance journeys to and from The Circle. Last year, the stable had to be moved from The Circle to the nearby Georgetown Fire Co. on Bedford Street after each event.

“We’ve focused on making the stable, the Nativity, a bit more mobile this year. Last year, that was the hardest part. We had to push that stable on and off The Circle,” said Mr. Conaway. “We went through like 12 sets of wheels before we found one that actually worked. This year, we’ve built it on a trailer, so it’s completely 100% mobile. We’ll be able to take this thing anywhere, maybe even other locations.”

The birth of Baby Jesus is brought to life by members of the First Baptist Church during the 2019 live nativity event.

Mr. Dukes added that the scene will also be bigger to accommodate social distancing.

“We’re making it larger, so we can social distance and have more room between the people. We’ve also designed it to be mobile, so we can get it on and off The Circle to comply with the town’s ordinance,” Mr. Dukes said.

“We had a lot of work last year in just trying to set up and tear down every night. We did what we could because we threw that one together in a week. So given a month or two to plan, we did everything we could to make improvements.”

Returning this year is the Christmas star and angel. Each night in 2019’s Nativity, a member of various churches donned the 12-foot angel wings and stood in a perch hoisted 30 feet toward the heavens behind the stable.

“It really is really exciting when you’re coming down Market Street and looking at The Circle and see that angel,” said Mr. Dukes.

Also in 2020, support for two organizations benefiting infants and young children is sought.

“We are encouraging people to bring donations once more for the Sussex Pregnancy Care Center and for the Sussex County Foster Parent Association,” Mr. Conaway said.

Volunteers Kolby Dukes, left, Dave Wilson, right, and Josh Wharton (on ladder) work on the new live nativity structure to be publicly unveiled Dec. 19 on The Circle in Georgetown.

Donations of diapers, training pants, wipes, school supplies and winter clothes for girls and boys sizes 18 months to 2T would be greatly appreciated, he added.

On live Nativity evenings, hot chocolate will be available, courtesy of the Georgetown Fire Co. Ladies Auxiliary.

The Christmas Eve candlelight program will feature First Baptist Church and its Pastor Woody Bates.

Planning also includes an additional amenity, featuring themes from the popular “Walk Through Bethlehem” event staged by Lynnhaven Baptist Church in Pocomoke City, Maryland.

“They had to cancel this year because of COVID, and we’ve got one of their main team members helping us this year with some of the finishing touches on it. We’d have to get it on and off The Circle, so we have to be mindful of that. So I don’t know quite what it’s going to look like this year,” said Mr. Conaway.

Keri Ann Foster of Lynnhaven Baptist was on hand for several construction sessions at Dukes Lumber.

“What we have found, when we do Walk Through Bethlehem, you come in, … and it makes you feel like you are in Bethlehem,” said Ms. Foster. “It’s like life in Bethlehem as it was, and our thing is if we can make you feel what it’s like, then, when you see the Nativity, you might feel it more. I think it makes a difference.

“It’s crazy in this world nowadays. It’s all about Santa Claus and buying gifts,” she added. “We do things for families. It’s about giving, period. God gave to us, so we need to give back.”

It’s time for the caroling portion of the live nativity as Discover Church members lead in the singing of religious Christmas songs at the 2019 event.

Time will tell on attendance this year.

“We don’t know what the attendance is going to be like this year. It may be lighter. It may be more,” sad Mr. Conaway. “Regardless, we’re going to be out there, and we’re going to be presenting the true message of Christmas. And that’s what it’s all about.”

The mission, organizers say, is to unite a diverse community through the true reason for the season.

“We had a blast last year. We got to meet a lot of really good people,” said Mr. Conaway. “This is the type of thing that we need right now. We need to come together. We need to come together as community. COVID has kind of sped things up, it feels like. Before we know it, Christmas is going to be over.

“We need to just slow a little bit and reflect on all the blessings that we do have. We just don’t want Christmas to be missed through the process. We don’t want fellowship with our community to be missed. We don’t want to miss bringing different churches together and different people from all over the county together.”

Mr. Dukes agreed.

“It is important to share the meaning of Christmas. I remember there was a segment online where they went out and interviewed kids and said, ‘Do you know the reason we celebrate Christmas?’ And next to none of them said it’s because it’s Jesus’ birthday,” he said.

“So anything we can do to share the good news that Jesus came to save us, came as a baby in a miracle, anything we can do to bring light to that and give glory to God for the miracle or salvation that we are able to live out today … that is the reason we are doing this.”