Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Living Nativity Scene

Our family had the privilege of experiencing a "living nativity" this past Sunday evening. It was located at a church about an hour away from where we live. To be honest, I wasn't expecting it to be any big deal-- a few people dressed up to portray the Christmas Story out on the church lawn or something. One of our favorite "traditions" is to go for a drive to look at lights and listen to Christmas music and stories on the radio one evening during the Christmas season, so I thought it could just be an extension of that.

I had no idea how popular this particular program is! We thought it was a little odd that the directions said to go to a particular middle school to pick up our "pass" to get in to see the Nativity, but when we got to the school we realized why. The school parking lot was a maze of cars lined up two abreast waiting to make the short drive down the street and around the corner to the church. Ah-ha! This was how they kept the line from backing up on the highway. It was a much bigger production than I had imagined.

I would be interested to know how many cars were lined up. I would estimate several hundred, at least. It was a big parking lot and at one time while we waited it was completely full. The program was to run from 6:00 to 8:00. We got in line at 6:25. An hour later we got to the man (dressed as a Roman soldier) who was handing out glow rings to hang from our rearview mirror. That was our "pass". During the next half hour we were offered candy canes and served hot cocoa while we continued to wait in line. At 8:00 we were finally at the front of the line to drive over to the church.

When we got there, we realized that our wait was not over yet. The cars were backed up down a service road! Just before we got to the entrance we were given an audio CD to listen to as we made our way through six different scenes.

The whole thing was very well organized, and very moving. I thought it was worth the two-hour wait! (But I have to admit I'm glad we have XM satellite radio in the car! We enjoyed several Christmas OTR programs while we waited.) The unfortunate thing was that the battery died on my camera, so I ended up with not-so-great cell phone pics.

First, we passed the shepherds "abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them... and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.." 

Every time the spotlight glory of the Lord shone on the "heavenly host" they would raise their arms. Then when the light moved back to the shepherds they put them back down. I overheard someone say that some of the angels got too cold earlier in the evening and had to be swapped out, which slowed the waiting line down some. It was a very cold night... about 20 degrees... so I did feel sorry for the angels and other participants.

Next we passed the bustling marketplace of Bethlehem, where the census was being taken and taxes collected. We were impressed by how elaborate this scene was. Becky especially liked the baby goat one child was leading around.

We got to the inn in Bethlehem just as Mary and Joseph were being turned away. This was the only place in the whole scenario where any of the characters overlapped.

The Holy Family in the bitterly cold stable moved me to tears. I know it probably wasn't actually that cold the night and place where Jesus was born... but just to be reminded again... the circumstances of His birth were no accident. The lowly stable was all part of His plan.

Nearby, in the shadows, a choir softly sang traditional Christmas carols. (The CD told us to roll our car window down to hear the singing.)

My picture of the wise men with their camels didn't turn out at all. The CD said that since it was some 2 years later when the wise men arrived in Bethlehem, they portrayed them on their journey, following the star. We wondered where they found live camels in eastern Washington in December!

The last scene was the cross. It was simply spotlighted with a lamb tied to the bottom of it, to remind us of the Lamb of God. Greater still than the humble circumstances of His birth was His willingness to die in such a brutal way... for us.

I think our family has discovered a new Christmas tradition...


Nancy M. said...

Wow! Sounds like a great production! We usually go to one near our house, but our van is broken, so we didn't get to go this year. It is always special when we go!

The Watts Family said...

Wow!! Looks really great! how nice to see I have not seen any around here but we have gone to something like this in the past~ Thanks for sharing ~Blessings Heather

pse said...

Thanks for the tour. Your pictures are better than I thought they would be.

Sheila DelCharco said...

Wow Karla! Moved *me* to tears and I wasn't even there to see it! We have a living nativity in our town that we went to for years. We didn't go this year but maybe next year we'll go with my brother and his family. It's fun to see the little ones' reaction to it!

Thanks for sharing your experience so vividly...