Mary, played by Cas Velez, left, and Joseph, played by Kolton Miller, 12, await the arrival of the three wise men during a performance of the First United Methodist Church’s Living Nativity Wednesday at the church. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
Nativity sets are a popular holiday decoration in many homes during the Christmas season. The small, motionless figurines depict the night Jesus was born and can be simply made from paper mache’ or elaborately cut from crystal. The decorative scene features Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the three wise men, a shepherd, the guiding star, an angel and the barn animals set against a barn backdrop.
But the nativity scenes at two local churches feature living, breathing humans re-enacting the Christmas story.
The Seventh Day Adventist Church is scheduled to host a “living nativity adventure” from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tonight and Friday at 1501 E. Llano Estacado in Clovis.
White lights creating the shape of a star serve as a guide to the First United Methodist Church where the youth group performed its Living Nativity on Wednesday.
Approximately 20 bystanders outfitted in winter coats and hats stood in a field in front of the Methodist church sipping steaming cups of coffee. Additional people watched from the interior of their warm vehicles; windows cracked to hear the story of Jesus’ birth.
Center stage, a rustic structure stood flanked by wooden fences where miniature horses munched fresh hay. A taped narrative told the story in both English and Spanish as young church members acted out the events of Jesus’ birth.
As the religious play unfolded, Mary and Joseph were surrounded by three gold-winged angels, three velvet-robed wise men and a group of shepherds carrying hooks and leading sheep. The re-enactment concluded as “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” played through the hidden speakers. The angels lifted their arms toward heaven as Mary presented the baby Jesus for all to see and worship. “Joy to the World” was the background music as each actor took a bow to appreciative applause from the audience.
Leslie White proudly watched her son, Deshane, portray a wise man. The mother said her 13-year-old had volunteered to be in the play and seemed to enjoy the experience. “This was the first time I had seen the actual performance,” White said. “I thought it was fun.”
White’s younger son, Tyler, echoed his mother’s positive reaction to the play. “It was awesome,” Tyler White said. “The best part was when the shepherds came in with the sheep.”
Cas Velez played in the starring role of Mary. The 24-year-old youth minister said the experience was moving. “Playing Mary was a humbling experience because it made me think of what Mary went through on the night Jesus was born,” Velez said. “I would think it was cool if an angel came to speak to me though.”
According to church member Bill Sheridan, The First United Methodist Church on Sycamore Street will perform the Living Nativity tonight and Friday as well. “We will have a different cast each night,” Sheridan said.
Living nativity performances:
• Seventh Day Adventist Church: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. tonight and Friday, 1501 E. Llano Estacado in Clovis.
• First United Methodist Church: 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. tonight and Friday, 1501 N. Sycamore.