Gainesville Daily Register
A Gainesville holiday tradition, now in its third decade, brings the Nativity story to life this weekend.
Representatives of First Presbyterian Church are hosting their annual “Live Nativity Scene” from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the east lawn of the church, 401 S. Denton St. in Gainesville.
These shows are part of a slate of local holiday events including the city’s annual Christmas parade, set for 6 p.m. Thursday on California Street.
For more than 25 years, organizers said, local residents and donated animals have been part of a two-night costumed production that reenacts the moments leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ.
“We’ve never let weather get in the way,” said Retha Bond, church publicity chairman. “We’ve been through rain, sleet and snow ... and hot weather, like it’s probably going to be this week.”
Bond explained that only the Saturday installment will include the characters of Mary, Joseph and the Wise Men “traveling” from downtown locales to the church lawn as part of the show — an element that is also open to the public.
“Sometimes people will follow and walk with them to the scene,” she said Monday. “It’s very inspirational.”
During Sunday’s installment, she added, the actors will simply arrive at the church and then perform their Nativity scene.
But during both evenings, all participants give the show the solemn treatment it deserves.
“They actually do some acting to some extent,” Bond said. “They’re reverent. So that’s the one thing we try and do — which is to make it an inspirational thing.”
The local Nativity tradition was also recently taken on the road. In December 2011, Rev. John Hare of First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville and several church members travelled to Joplin, Mo., to present the show. It was part of a national effort to help the Missouri city, which was seriously damaged by storms during the previous spring.
In August, the church joined a national effort to help Joplin by collecting band instruments and sending them to this city, which had lost its resources for an entire music department.
“For us a gift the nativity is a gift to the community, and we decided to take it to Joplin rather than participate in the Gainesville parade,” Hare said in 2011. “We did our research, and no other church in that area does the Live Nativity in the area.”