Have you ever seen a live nativity? I’ll be honest — I had never even heard of a live nativity until a few weeks ago. I don’t know what I expected, but as I was scrolling through the list of local holiday events, I stopped when I arrived at the one that stated: “Indian River Presbyterian Church Live Nativity, December 14 & 15 only.”
A live nativity? Yes, please! Would the people be talking? Is it like a play of some sort? Are there real animals? Does Jesus make a cameo?
I was not sure what I expected, but I was downright adamant about going. I shared the date with friends and family. I talked about it. I put on the calendar in my phone — with a reminder the day before AND the day of.
I did not want to miss this.
Let me just tell you — I was not expecting what I got when we arrived at this church on Saturday evening. Hundreds of cars. Police officers with lights on, directing traffic – both human and auto. And masses of people walking to the church.
This, of course, only spiked my anticipation more.
As we arrived, we were informed by a man in traditional Biblical attire that, if we continue moving forward, we will arrive at a tent where there was a census, just like there was before baby Jesus was on his way. Of course, in reading the story of the birth of Jesus the night before, “census” was a word we had to explain to the boys. So, in hearing that there was a “census,” the boys started to beam a little more.
This really is real.
In a wonderfully organized fashion, the church moved groups of people through 7 or so different scenes. There were those ordinary individuals in their homes with real fires burning, some even cooking dinner. There were others who were dancing. And, yet others walking with their head hung low as they paid their taxes.
There were live animals. And there were angels singing.
When Joseph and Mary made it to the innkeeper, my emotions got the best of me. I don’t know if it was just wonderful acting – or if it was the thought that here these two are – Mary and Joseph – looking for a place to have the most magnificent birth ever — God in the flesh — and they were turned away. No special treatment, no special circumstances, nothing.
Yet, they don’t worry. They don’t panic. They don’t get upset. They accept what they are offered and gladly take it.
My eyes filled with tears as we moved on to the next scene.
The entire experience was beautiful. I knew it was all just a portrayal of actual events, but the look of those around me let me know that they were carried away in awe, too, as if having a first-hand encounter with the story we’ve heard so many times before.
You just felt something. I felt something. Smaller, perhaps. Yet, fuller. And, at the same time, I just wanted to squeeze all the strangers around me. (Don’t worry, I didn’t.)
Something tells me visiting the live nativity is going to be a regular occurrence every Christmas for years to come. I sure am grateful for it. And, if you are ever presented with the opportunity — do not pass it up.