On a recent cold night, members of Driftwood Christian Church gathered in Brownstown to remind people of the real meaning of Christmas.

There were no perfectly wrapped presents, twinkling lights, a decorated tree or a man with a white beard dressed in a red suit.

Instead, a fire blazed near a rickety wood lean-to with donkeys and sheep standing outside. Inside were church members dressed in robes, some standing, some sitting on bales of hay.

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They were dressed as wise men, shepherds and angels. Their attention was focused on the gift in front of them — the baby Jesus.

For several years, the church has organized a living Nativity to celebrate Christmas. This was the second year the members set it up in a parking lot along Main Street in Brownstown.

Reddington Christian Church and St. Peter Lutheran Church in Waymansville along with other area churches also perform living Nativities with people and animals this time of year to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

Pastor Steve Gommel said although having the Nativity at the church near Vallonia was more picturesque, most years it didn’t attract much traffic.

With permission from The Peoples Bank in Brownstown, the group decided to set up in a parking lot next to the bank.

“We are grateful they let us do it because it’s a more visible location, and we are reaching more people,” he said.

Several people made special trips to see the Nativity after hearing about it. Others stopped while driving past and ventured from their cars to see what it was all about.

Kristi Banister of Seymour was driving her 6-year-old daughter to a dance lesson in Brownstown when they saw the scene.

“I wanted to see the animals and the baby Jesus,” Maeleigh Banister said. “It’s pretty neat, and the angels look so pretty.”

After snapping a few quick pictures with her cellphone, Kristi Banister said she was glad they took time to see the Nativity.

“It’s beautiful. They did a really good job,” she said. “I like that they do it here where more people can

see it.”

Ron Roberts took the first shift playing Joseph. Kaylee Branaman, 12, played Mary.

Both have participated in the Nativity before and agreed it helps put the focus back on Christ and the real reason for the season.

“We feel like it is the way to celebrate the birth of Christ,” Roberts said. “It’s something positive, and it might inspire someone to learn more about Jesus’ birth and remember what the season is about.”

Kaylee said it warms her heart to be a part of the Nativity, and she likes to talk to those who stop by.

Not everyone stops and gets out of their vehicles, but most people driving past slow down and honk, Roberts added.

“I think they know what it represents, and they appreciate what we’re doing,”

he said.

Brittany Darlage of Brownstown said this was the first year she and her children, 4-year-old Madison and 17-month-old Tyson, had seen the Nativity.

“I heard about it and wanted to see what it was like,” Darlage said. “I thought the kids would like seeing the animals.”

She also wants them to grow up knowing the real reason why they celebrate Christmas, she said.

Driftwood Christian member Deloris Goss said she and her husband always support the Nativity by coming out to see it.

“Church is a big part of our lives,” she said.

But she knows there are many people who don’t go to church, and she hopes the living Nativity is a way to familiarize them with the story of the birth of Jesus. She thinks the change in location also helps.

“I think it’s good more people get to see it,” she said.

Although the cold may have kept some people from getting out, church members agreed the weather wasn’t bad compared to last year’s heavy snow, ice, freezing temperatures and

strong winds.

Gommel said he never has to worry about getting enough volunteers to help organize the Nativity

each year.

“We have a small congregation, around 140, but they are very active,” he said.

The church is the oldest in the county and will celebrate its 200th anniversary

next fall.

Gommel said he sees the living Nativity as a reminder of why Christians celebrate the holiday.

“The scene you see on the Christmas cards with the manger and baby Jesus is real,” he said. “And this brings it alive for people to see and experience.”

For Peggy Peters, the living Nativity is the best part of Christmas. This year, she played an angel. In past years, she has been Mary and helped in other capacities.

“We love it and do it every year,” she said of her and her husband’s involvement with the Nativity.

Peters said she wants the Nativity to serve as a way to show people that Jesus is the center of Christmas.

“So many kids go and see Santa Claus, but we want them to come see what it was really like when Jesus was born,” she said.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.