Stillwater News Press

December 10, 2012

Bethlehem revisited

Area churches plan live nativity scenes

By Elizabeth Keys
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy

. . . LUKE 2:10




Come away in a manger to view the story of Christmas at living nativity scenes throughout the area.  It’s like going to a drive-in movie, except this show debuted some 2,000 years ago.

Members of Cushing’s Free Will Baptist Church, the youth group of Stillwater’s First Presbyterian Church, Eden Chapel United Methodist Church outside Perkins and Perry’s First Christian Church congregation are presenting Living Nativity programs in December.

The scenes carry you back in time, re-enacting the birth of Jesus as it happened long ago.

“The greatest present of all was never placed under a Christmas tree,” said Jenna Fowler. “He lay within the manger for all the world to see.”

Fowler, a Stillwater Junior High School student, has watched and participated in the Presbyterian living nativity since she was a small child.

“It’s a Christmas tradition for me and our gift to the community during the holiday season,” she said. “Families can come together to experience Christ’s birth — it’s important everyone has a chance to learn the story.”

Although earlier drawings and paintings exist, living nativity scenes date to the 13th century when St. Francis of Assisi presented a Christmas pageant in Greccio, Italy after visiting the Holy Land. The tradition spread all over the world with Christians believing that the coming of Jesus fulfilled many prophecies made hundreds of years before His birth.

The Gospels describe the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where they must go to be counted in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. Unable to find a room in an inn, they take refuge in a stable used to shelter animals. Here, Jesus is born and laid in a manger filled with hay. In the hills overlooking Bethlehem, an angel tells the shepherds of Jesus’ birth. The Gospel tells of a new brilliant star that appears marking the birthplace of Jesus and of the kings that follow its light to find the Christ Child.

“I like to think of it as a kind of miracle — a miracle that Jesus was brought by the Holy Spirit to Mary,” said Claire Leffingwell whose little brother Quinn will join her this year in the Presbyterian youth presentation.

All the local living nativities will use animals to depict the biblical scenes.

Marc Major, 17, and Guy Major, 15, have been bringing lambs from their flock of sheep for several years to the Presbyterian nativity, said their dad, Doug Major, superintendent of Meridian Technology Center, who added its a way for the family to be part of church history and serve the community.

Participating in a living nativity is an opportunity to “reach out and light our world by living your faith,” said Jamie Coffelt, the pastor’s wife of Free Will Baptist Church in Cushing which debuted their nativity last Saturday night. More presentations include:

5 to 8 p.m. Sunday

Free Will Baptist Church Living Nativity, 1148 E. Main, turn north on Howerton off State Highway 33 in Cushing

When driving through, each car is presented a CD and a portable CD player if needed. The CD is divided into tracks and each scene has a sign that tells the driver what track to turn to hear the story with narration and music scripted by church members. There are ten different scenes.  Donkeys, sheep and cows are scattered throughout the dramatic presentation with more than 50 people volunteering. The church treats each person to hot cocoa and homemade cookies.

6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday

First Presbyterian Church Youth Group Living Nativity on front lawn, 524 S. Duncan, one block east of the corner of Sixth and Duck

Students in sixth through 12th grades dress in period costumes and pose in tableau form with scripture verse explanations displayed in front of each scene. The actors stand still like statues and do not speak in the motionless performance. Four scenes from biblical accounts give the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The living nativity is visible from Sixth Street but viewers are encouraged to park and come see the scenes up close. Parking is available along Fifth and Duncan streets. The public is welcome with Fair Trade hot chocolate and cider available free to all guests. Inside the church will be a Fair Trade Christmas Store where visitors may shop for items from around the world. Fair Trade promotes the payment of fair prices and wages to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide, as well as fair social and environment standards in developing countries, to help move communities into economic self-sufficiency.

7 p.m. Thursday

Eden Chapel First United Methodist Church Living Nativity in Perkins Main Street Christmas Parade

Pastor John Curtis said this year the chapel is bringing the nativity to the patrons as part of the Perkins Old Fashioned Country Christmas parade.  For this new format, six biblical scenes with narration from the main stage will be portrayed interspersed throughout the parade entries. The Living Nativity will begin with the proclamation to go be counted and include a float of the manger scene and community members as a band of angels singing traditional carols. Parade viewers are encouraged to join in the chorus of celebration.

5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 21-23, and 5:30 to 7 p.m. Dec. 24

First Christian Church, 701 Holly, viewed from 7th Street in Perry

The Rev. Martin Foster said the congregation adorns biblical costumes and brings live animals to portray the manger scene in this long standing church tradition. On Christmas Eve, services will be held in the outside nativity at 5:30 p.m. and inside at 7 p.m.

Email news of any other area living nativity programs to events@stw-newspress.com.