ENTERPRISE — They came walking in from Nazareth (Is there a Nazareth in Wallowa County?) to find the inn full in Bethlehem (aka Enterprise) and there Mary (aka Erika Ketts), gave birth to the Son of God as Joseph (aka Tyler Ketts) watched and helped and shepherds and Magi came to worship.
That was the scene Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19, at Wallowa Valley Eye Care during a live Nativity put on by the Enterprise Seventh-day Adventist Church.
SDA member Janice Bailey gave the reasons for putting on the event, which had four half-hour plays each on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
“I’m just the crazy lady who’s organizing this,” Bailey said. “We’ve had a stressful year and I want our neighbors and friends in the community to stop and focus on the true meaning of Christmas and consider Jesus and the gift He offers each of us.”
Mary and Joseph each gave their take on the events they participated in.
Asked how she reacted to the news from the angel Gabriel that she would conceive from the Holy Spirit, Mary (Erica Ketts) confessed to being taken aback.
“It’s pretty surprising and I’m excited to see what happens” in His life, she said. “I hope He’ll change people’s hearts and bring hope and peace for the future.”
She said her betrothed, Joseph (Tyler Ketts), also was caught by surprise.
“I can’t say he took news too well, but he did have a change of heart,” she said.
“It was quite a shock,” Joseph said. “I was mystified and confused.”
Scripture tells us that being an honorable man, he felt he had to do the right thing but he didn’t want to shame Mary. So he sought to divorce her quietly.
Then came the dream in which an angel told him to go through with the marriage and name the child Jesus.
“That brought a lot of clarity and I had peace about raising the child with Mary,” Joseph said.
But then, they got to Bethlehem (the lawn outside the eye clinic) and found all the rooms in the inn filled and they had to bed down alongside animals in a stable.
Did this worry Mary?
“A little bit, but I trusted it would work,” she said. “Luckily, I like animals.”
After the birth, they were visited by shepherds bringing along their sheep. Biblical scholars believe the sheep raised near Bethlehem were of a top quality that could be used for the unblemished sacrifices at the Temple in nearby Jerusalem.
Two years later, they were visited by Magi — distinguished visitors from somewhere in the East — believed to have been scholars and astronomers who followed a significant stellar event that led them to the house the new family had relocated to after the birth.
Joseph, understandably, also wondered why he was chosen to be the man to raise God’s Son.
“I don’t know why I was chosen,” he said. “I think I probably won’t truly understand until I get to heaven.”
Coming out of character, Tyler Ketts said the whole experience of taking part in the live Nativity goes along with being part of the community, to which his family is relatively new.
“It’s important to get involved in community events,” he said. “This is an event that brings people together.”
“I just hope everyone shows up and are blessed and encouraged in this kind-of dismal year,” Erica Ketts agreed.
There was live music between the sets, along with hot drinks and cookies for those attending. Bailey said those putting on the event did their best to be “COVID-friendly,” handing out cookies in bags and hot drinks in disposable cups. Masks also were evident among many, including some of the actors.
The weather even cooperated. Although cool, it wasn’t frigid.
“We’re praying its 43 degrees and not 19 degrees,” Bailey said beforehand.
Kids in the audience had the chance to pet the sheep and a miniature mule that took part in the play. She said many locals contributed to the Nativity scene, loaning straw, building the set and making costumes.
“It’s lovely that we have people willing to bring their animals,” she said. “We have a wide variety of community members who volunteered. It’s huge; it’s awesome.”
After the live Nativity, the announcer urged those present to continue their community Christmas celebration by visiting the Fair Lights display at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds, which runs through Sunday, Dec. 27.