‘Celebrate Jesus’ is becoming annual tradition

By ANNA KARAKAS | For the Independent

For more than 10 years, the Church of Christ in Port Orchard has brought people together from different churches and denominations from around the local area for one specific purpose: To reenact the life of Jesus in “Celebrate Jesus.”

The event has attracted more than 6,000 people from the community and surrounding area.

Every December, more than 100 volunteers work together, some with acting and others with cooking or organizing. There are people of all ages, from children to senior citizens, but all of them are there to help tell a story.

The sets take up the entire field next to the Church of Christ’s main building on Carr Lane. A long winding road, beginning with giant illuminated letters spelling out “Celebrate Jesus” shows the way through dozens of covered stages and booths.

There’s even a large archway leading to “Jerusalem.”

It wasn’t always this way.

In the first year, the performance consisted of 13 sets, all built within six weeks. From there, the ministry has grown and the sets became more permanent, including a 10-foot pond in which the “Fishers of Men” can float in a small boat. Sets have been added or updated or replaced with each consecutive year. Last year they had to replace one set entirely because of a fire caused by vandals.

The sets would be nothing without the people, though, and not just the ones dressed like wise men or shepherds.

Every year, there are volunteers to cook soup, cornbread, and cookies to keep the actors warm and well-fed. Volunteers help with makeup and costumes. The performance includes sheep, goats, llamas, donkeys, and chickens. The nativity and shepherds’ scenes each have live animals in them.

The actors play a variety of roles from census takers and crowd members to Jesus himself. Some of the longer scenes require actors to memorize several minutes of dialogue, while some scenes have no speaking parts. Each of the scenes tells about a part of the life of Christ.

“Celebrate Jesus” is set at 6 p.m. Dec. 13-15. There is no admission cost and people can enjoy the show from the comfort of their own vehicle, while many people walk through the sets.

When something has been around for more than 10 years and telling a story as unforgettable as “Celebrate Jesus,” people are bound to make it a tradition.


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