Every year, from the time I was about eight until eleven or 12, our church would produce a live nativity scene. Community members of all ages were instructed to stand like statues for a few freezing cold hours over a weekend while cars from as far away as Lufkin and Nacogdoches slowly drove through the parking lot. No chewing gum or tobacco; no chit-chat; no silly dances, waving or hollering at cars we recognized, nothing. Just stand there.
The first year was contained to the walkway between the church sanctuary and fellowship hall; subsequent productions had shepherd fields out among the trees. The set was constructed from wood scraps covered with moss and other scavenged greenery.
The costumes were old sheets and ripped up cotton fabric; there were sneaker logos shining under robes; at least one king sported a repurposed Burger King crown. Fountain drink cups were barely hidden, as was the inevitable appearance of neighborhood dog. We never stood like statues when there was gum to chew, chit-chat to share and silly dances to perform. The best part of the evening was going inside for a hard-earned hot cocoa when it all got to be too much.
But “joyful and triumphant” are guiding words for the season, and that has never been lost on us.
*I talk a little more about the annual Christmas nativity and other traditions in my 2021 holiday podcast. Yes, I realize it’s now 2022 and almost 2023. The podcast has been down, but not out. Can’t say for sure when I will have a new episode, but it’s still cooking. Just on a back burner for now.