By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The Nativity scene is the centerpiece of the Christmas holiday, the story of the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. That story is coming to life, as First United Methodist Church (FUMC) presents a live rendering of the story in a series of displays surrounding the church.
The Nativity scene will be held from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23 – 24 at the church, located at Seventh and Walnut.
The church envisioned the idea as a way to have a Christmas service while social distancing. FUMC normally holds a candlelight vigil for the whole community, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the church to be creative to find ways to reach the community at Christmas.
“Our church has always done a community candlelit communion service on Christmas Eve, but we just knew with the pandemic, that was not going to be possible this year, so we decided to think of a service that didn’t keep people in close proximity,” said Dawn Mills, who helped organize the event.
The event will start at the church’s welcome center on the north side of the church on West Seventh Street. Attendees are asked to approach the welcome center facing east, where they will receive hot chocolate, cookies and a guide through the displays. They will then drive to the parking lot across the street east, where they will be greeted by the first four displays, which include the angel Gabriel approaching Joseph and Mary about the baby Jesus. They will also see the angels announcing Jesus to the shepherds, and finally, Mary and Joseph on the road to Bethlehem for the census.
Once they view those scenes, they will turn around where they will view the Nativity scene itself, with Mary and Joseph watching over Jesus in the manger.
Participants are then invited to participate in Communion in the church’s south parking lot, with the Three Wisemen offering the bread and juice, all prepackaged for each participant for contactless Communion.
All scenes will be live with re-enactors and local livestock, including chickens, goats, cows and mini-horses. Several dozen church families are helping put on this unique program.
“About 65 families are involved, whether it be baking cookies, working behind the scenes or acting,” Mills said.
FUMC is saddened to not have a full service for Christmas, but is proud to be able to offer Communion, while also celebrating Christmas during the pandemic.
“For us, this is a gift for or community,” Pastor Susan Rice said. “Since we can’t invite them inside our building, we want to do something to welcome the community. We hope it’ll be meaningful.”