By Jeremy Henderson, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 1, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- More than 400 people spent "A Night in Bethlehem" last year and the Fort Rucker Chaplaincy invites the Wiregrass to the drive-through experience again this year.
The free "A Night in Bethlehem" event is Dec. 13 from 6-8 p.m. The event re-enacts the events leading to Jesus' birth with a drive-through experience at the main post chapel loop using scenes depicting the annunciation to Mary, no room at the inn, the manger scene, shepherds in the field receiving the news from angels and the deployed choir depicting how 21st century Soldiers, civilians and contractors celebrate Christmas when on mission.
"The Religious Support Office began this program in 2007 under the name Bethlehem Village, as a VBS-style look at the Christmas story," said Nancy Jankoski, Fort Rucker Religious Support Office director of religious education. "We changed the name to 'A Night in Bethlehem' because the format now is a one-night, drive-through Nativity display with five specific scenes."
According to Jankoski, everyone who spends "A Night in Bethlehem" will receive a token ornament to hang on their trees at home.
"We will have live animals for the Shepherds in the Field station," she said. "This is a simple, yet fun way for individuals and families to experience the Christmas story together. Persons can experience 'A Night in Bethlehem' by driving through, or, if an individual, a couple, a youth or a whole family would like to make an even better memory, we still have spaces for volunteers to be part of the Bethlehem cast.
"There is no limit to the number of volunteers who want to sing the carols with the deployed choir, and we have plenty of costumes that fit over one's clothing in varying sizes for adults, teens, and families with children to dress up together as shepherds, angels and the crowd at the inn," she added. "Participants will stay under a covered shelter at most stations and we provide a nursery for the infants, toddlers and very young children of our volunteers. So this is a chance for making memories and having fun as a family."
To volunteer, call the Religious Support Office at 255-2989 or 255-3946, or get in touch with a unit chaplain. Volunteers will need to come in for one training session and costume fitting.
This year's event will also provide an opportunity for patrons to get into the holiday giving spirit.
"Like last year, we are advertising for voluntary donations of canned goods to help stock some local food pantries," Jankoski said. "Persons can drive through Bethlehem even if they do not participate in the canned goods drive. There is no cost for this, we are just trying to help the needy and offer participants a chance to help a community food pantry as a community service outreach. Last year, we collected over 140 canned goods to help feed those in need in our local communities."
The post chaplaincy will support the angel tree program again this year. The tree, adorned with tags and angels available to be sponsored, currently lights the main post chapel entryway.
"Each tag contains the age and gender of a child whose family received a food voucher for the Army Community Service's holiday food program," Therese Erthal, Catholic parish coordinator, said. "We receive the names of children from families forward to us by ACS. Those names are then placed on our tree."
Now through Dec. 11, individuals can select an angel from the tree. Participants are asked to purchase a new, age-appropriate gift for the child listed on the tag of the selected angel. Used toys and clothing will not be accepted for use in the program. Participants are also asked not to donate food or candy.
For more information about the angel tree program, call 255-9894.
RSO hosts a Hanukkah service 5 p.m. daily Dec. 24 through Jan. 1.
Families are invited to the "Meet Me at the Manger" children's Christmas service Dec. 13 from 6-8 p.m. at Spiritual Life Center.
A children's Christmas Eve Mass takes place Dec. 24 from 4-5 p.m. at the main post chapel. A candlelight service will follow from 7-8 p.m. and a Christmas Midnight Mass takes place from midnight to 1 a.m. Christmas Day Mass will be held Dec. 25 from 9-10 a.m. at the main post chapel.
For more information, call 255-2989, 255-3946 or 255-3140.