In his short time as a member of Reddington Christian Church, Alex Cazares has seen how much the congregation gives back.
He and his wife and their young child attended a Halloween event in October, and the church recently collected items for those affected by the wildfires in Sevier County, Tennessee.
Then recently, members had an opportunity to sign up to participate in the church’s living Nativity.
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Cazares said he signed up because it was another way to get involved.
“My wife and I, one of the things that we enjoy doing is driving by these kind of things, but to get involved and actually see what’s going on, we haven’t ever experienced that,” he said Sunday night while portraying one of the Three Wise Men.
“One of the things that we like about this church is everybody is very involved, so of course, being new and baptized, everybody’s like, ‘Sign up for this. Get as involved as possible,'” he said. “So I was like, ‘Why not?’ This is something to meet new people and to be able to enjoy the experience. I was really excited to sign up for this. I didn’t even know this was here, but I’m glad I know that it is now and to be a part of it.”
For more than 15 years, the church along U.S. 31 five miles north of Seymour has conducted the living Nativity, giving the public a chance to step back in time and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
If you missed the first night Sunday, the living Nativity will be available for viewing again from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
In the shelter house outside the church, members portray the Three Wise Men standing near Mary and Joseph as they look over baby Jesus. Angels also are a part of the manger scene.
There also are several shepherds with livestock, including Jacob sheep, calves and chickens.
The Star of Bethlehem is lit up on the shelter house, and a fire flickers nearby.
After visiting the living Nativity, visitors can head inside the church to warm up with cookies, cocoa and apple cider.
More than 40 members of the church participate in the three nights of the living Nativity.
Cazares said being a part of the display has been a learning experience.
“I’d like to say I’ve always been religious, but to actually be involved in something that goes back when Christ was born, it’s pretty neat to understand everything that’s happening because there are a lot of characters in it,” he said. “Believe it or not, these characters were real, and they are a part of why the Christmas season is what it is. To be a part of that, it’s just a good story for me to tell for years.”
He hopes people visiting the living Nativity have a similar experience.
“It’s important for people to see,” he said. “I think the generation that we live in, there is a lot of bad. If we can put on something like this for one night to have some good, if we can start to focus more on the good than the bad, I think with kids learning this and seeing this and their parents teaching them what the Christmas spirit is all about, hopefully, it’s going to brighten up our future.”
Cazares said he may come back this weekend with his family just to enjoy the display and interact with other members of the church.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this for many years to come,” he said.
Seth Thompson portrayed Joseph on Sunday, while his fiancee, Kelsey Toborg, played the role of Mary.
This was Thompson’s first time being involved in the living Nativity, while Toborg has done it for several years.
“I’ve probably done it since it started,” Toborg said. “My parents are the ones who get people for it, so I just volunteer with my whole family.”
Thompson said he liked seeing people interact with the animals and those portraying biblical characters.
“It means a lot because it helps the church just come together,” Thompson said of being involved.
“It helps tie in the community with the church, getting the true meaning of Christmas and people coming and learning about the characters and the people involved,” Toborg said.
David Hamilton was one of the shepherds Sunday. He said he has been a part of the living Nativity every year.
“I’ve been coming here since ’76, and whatever they do, I try to help,” he said.
Hamilton said he likes talking to people visiting the display.
Rain may have kept some people away Sunday, but he encourages people to come by the shelter house this weekend to check out the living Nativity.
“When the kids come, they just love to pet the animals,” Hamilton said. “I like to just see the community and give back. This church is a warm church that takes care of the elderly, the young. They are just very good, and everybody needs church.”
What: Living Nativity
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Reddington Christian Church, 10516 N. U.S. 31, north of Seymour in Reddington
Cost: Free; light refreshments available in the church’s fellowship hall