A fire flickered on an unseasonably warm December Sunday near the shelter house at Reddington Christian Church.
In the shelter house, three wise men and three angels stood near Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, who were all sitting in front of a manger. The floor was covered with straw, and the Star of Bethlehem was lit up.
There also were several shepherds with livestock, including a pair of Jacob sheep, a calf, a donkey, a goat and a couple of chickens.
For about 15 years, the church north of Seymour has conducted a living Nativity, giving the public a chance to step back in time and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
“It just gives you a time in the Christmas season that you stop and understand the real reason for Christmas,” said Steve Bowman, a member of the church who is portraying a shepherd in the living Nativity.
“It’s the highlight of Christmas because we’ve had families come several years in a row, and it’s kind of a Christmas tradition for them,” he said.
If you weren’t able to see the living Nativity this past Sunday, it will be available for viewing again from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The animals typically are the main draw for people of all ages.
“We have a farm, and I have animals on it, so I enjoy animals,” Bowman said. “I’m kind of a natural fit to be a part of (the living Nativity).”
Portraying a shepherd, church member Dave McNabb of Seymour stood outside a caged area with the two Jacob sheep. The old breed of sheep, which is named for the biblical figure of Jacob, is unique because they have horns.
“When (Jacob) left the Promised Land, they divvied up the property, and he willingly took the blemished sheep and goats, the blemished livestock,” McNabb said. “He was showing his humility. In other words, he wasn’t taking the perfect. He was willing to take what was imperfect. Just like Jesus, he’s willing to accept us for our imperfections.”
McNabb said he didn’t know about Jacob sheep until he started participating in the living Nativity.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s fun to especially see the kids and their reactions with the livestock.”
Sam Schrader, 5, of Dudleytown liked the animals, especially the donkey. He came to the living Nativity with his father, Chris Schrader, and other family members.
Chris Schrader said the family has been to Reddington Christian Church’s living Nativity in the past, and they also have seen one at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which is near Cincinnati.
“I think they do a good job,” he said of the church’s setup. “It’s a nice outreach to the community to let people know what the reasoning is, that it’s more than just gifts at the holiday. This is what it’s about. I hope that (Sam) gets that there’s more about Christmas than presents, that Jesus is the reason for the season.”
Brandon Carter of Reddington has been a part of the living Nativity in the past, but this is the first time his son, Chase, 5, has participated. They both play shepherds.
“We just have some father-son time and really enjoy it,” Brandon Carter said. “He gets to celebrate the birth of Christ and show others what actually happened and gets to talk to them about it.”
Portraying that story is important, Carter said.
“Being involved in things like this just really brings it to life, lets you show the kids what actually happened and that Christ was born for us in such a manner, that it was not in a hospital like we think about today. It was in a manger,” he said.
“Our Lord, our Savior came from nothing, and even though he could have been born with the lords and the kings, he was born in a manger like this setting and really proves that it’s not of man’s creation, it’s of God’s creation,” he said.
The living Nativity’s participants are a variety of ages.
“It kind of brings our community together,” Brandon Carter said. “I think this kind of spans all ages. It’s not just one age. It’s everybody coming together because we are all of God’s creation. We are all his children, no matter the age.”
Those participating in the living Nativity hope the public takes in the message behind it.
“It’s a way to tell the story of the humble beginnings of when God came into earth,” McNabb said. “Now, he is the king of kings sitting on the right hand of God. It’s a good way to portray that and make what people see in the Bible, make it more real. Plus, it shows the spiritual side of Christmas. Christmas is not just gifts under the tree and everything.”
Brandon Carter said it shines a light on Christianity.
“As a whole, Christians are actually decreasing in our country in numbers, and it just kind of shows everybody that we’re still here, we’re still strong, and we still believe just as much as ever,” he said. “Maybe through that, others can see that it’s OK to be Christian, it’s OK to love Jesus and support and able to speak His name out loud.”
Bowman said the church invites everyone to see the living Nativity this weekend.
“Everybody come out because it’s a wonderful time,” he said. “It brings you back, grounds you to what the real meaning of what Christmas is. It gets you out of the hustle and bustle.”
What: Living Nativity
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Reddington Christian Church, 10516 U.S. 31 North, north of Seymour in Reddington
Cost: Free; light refreshments available in the church’s fellowship hall