Saturday, December 03, 2005

Live Nativity

New Harmony Baptist Church has a live nativity every year. They do it early, so people can enjoy it before the rush begins. Last night was their first night, so my husband and son and I decided to go drive through it.

We topped the hill right before you get to the church, which is on a winding two-lane road in the county, and traffic was already backed up a 1/2 mile. It was just 6:05, and the Nativity was from 6-9 p.m. Evidently alot of us were in need of some Christmas Spirit to get us in the groove of things.

It was a beautiful, clear, cold night in Henry County. I bet those participants had long johns on under their costumes. The drive was lined with plastic milk jug luminaries. Scripture was painted on big signs by each scene. We were met at the beginning by a group handing out programs with the Christmas story imprinted on one side and the plan of Salvation on the other.

The first scene was John the Baptist standing at the entrance. Every few cars, he would raise his staff and shout, "Prepare Ye the way of the Lord." You could hear him down at the road. The next scene was the angel visiting Mary, complete with a little bedroom scene. After that it was Ceasar upon his throne with his guards giving out the decree.

Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem really caught my son's eye. By this time I was crying and trying to read all at the same time. I would read between his excited commentary. "Look at those sheep, Mama." "Look at those shepherds."

The angel choir was awesome. There were about 20 angels robed in white up on a high platform with a black light shining on them to illuminate them praising God in the Highest. Angel music was piped in as you drove by.

The actual Nativity scene always softens me to mush. I am transported to Bethlehem. I am in awe of the Holy Birth. What a privilege to serve this awesome king that came to earth in a stable.

The next scene was the marketplace of Bethlehem. There were all sorts of costumed families milling about, selling fruits, vegetables, and meats. They had freshly butchered meat laid out. They had freshly killed duck hanging from the doorways. They had fish laid out to buy. The children would walk around chasing geese through the marketplace. Livestock was everywhere. There was a beggar begging alms. It was all so beautifully done.

I heard my son yell from the backseat. "Camels!. They got camels!." He had looked ahead to the next scene which was the wise men. And there munching straw, kneeling in front of the wise men, were two huge camels. I turned to my husband. "Where do you suppose they got live camels in Henry County?" My son thinks they borrowed them from a circus. Maybe so. It was impressive for a rural town in Tennessee.

The next to the last scene was "Wise Men Still Seek Him." There was a big platform with risers. There was a newlywed couple dressed in their wedding finery. There was a cheerleader, a man on a Harley Davidson, military personnel, a nurse, a man in a wheelchair, teenagers, and some others in a group. The message was obvious. Jesus is for all of us today. He loves us all. We should all seek Him.

The final scene was at the exit. A cross lit with the scripture, John 3:16. They gave out peppermint sticks as we exited. I was still crying as well pulled out the drive. No matter how many times I hear the story, or read it, or see it done theatrically, it will always get to me.

"Son, this is the real meaning of Christmas. It is not Santa Claus. It is not presents or trees or parties. This is it. Jesus came to save us from our sins--all those bad things we do. He died so we don't have to. Do you understand that son?"

"Yes, Mama. Today's his birthday, isn't it?"

"Well, we don't know for sure what day it is, but we will celebrate it all month, and especially on the 25th, in a few weeks."

And really we should celebrate it every day in our hearts. Because of his birth, we have new birth. We have reason to celebrate every day of our lives. Lord help me when I start to feel sorry for myself. I am the richest woman on earth.

Happy Birthday Jesus!

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