By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
GRAPELAND – Step back in time and visit “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem” as the story of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, comes to life at Grapeland Baptist Church’s Living Nativity this weekend.
The 8th Annual “Night in Bethlehem” living nativity will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5-6 at the church, located at 505 Spivey Road, on the corner of FM 227 East and Spivey Road, just off U.S. 287 in Grapeland.
The living nativity will be set up so that visitors can walk through or drive through the nativity scenes.
“A visual picture is worth a thousand words. We do this so we can paint a picture of the birth of Christ and the Christmas story – to drive through or walk through – to see the characters and the scenes presented,” Grapeland Baptist Church Interim Pastor John Goss said. “It’s especially good for younger children, because it will leave a lasting impression in their minds for when they hear the Christmas story in Sunday School or when their parents read it to them – to identify with seeing the living nativity in person.”
Although this is the eighth year the church has put on the living nativity, this will be Goss’ first year to participate.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of it this year. It’s a great way to share the testimony of the Christmas story with the people of Grapeland and Houston County. There may be someone who goes through who may not know Jesus Christ that can hear about Him,” Goss said.
GBC Living Nativity Director Mary Bogue said families, groups and individuals are welcome to drive-through or park and walk through the living nativity.
“Personally, I feel it’s better when you walk through it, because you can interact with the characters and the story of Jesus’ birth really comes to life,” Bogue said.
Participants will be dressed in costume – as shepherds, angels, townspeople, wise men, innkeeper and Romans – as the young couple Mary and Joseph try to find a place to lay their head as Mary prepares to deliver the Messiah.
“We try to make it as realistic as possible in what they would have in that time period,” Bogue said. “We have people drawing water from a well, an olive press, a cart with pumpkins and gourds that were typically brought in the field, women selling scarves and fabrics they have made and ladies selling their wares.”
But most importantly, they are telling the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth.
“I feel it makes a deeper impression on people to see it in person. Our children receive the story more clearly when they see it happening and are taking a part in it, seeing how all the pieces come together as they walk through Bethlehem,” Bogue said. “A lot of people after coming through the living nativity, will say they will be right back – that they are going to go back to their house and load up the others to come see it, or bring a neighbor because they want others to see it.”
For those walking through, tour guides take them on a journey beginning in Nazareth where they see an angel telling Mary she will be with child, and that He will be the Messiah. From there they make the trip to Bethlehem, which for Joseph and Mary took 70 to 80 miles, but for guests to Grapeland Baptist Church, only takes about 100 feet.
See angels telling shepherds of the miracle occurring that night in Bethlehem, while gossip spreads through the community, and the rumor that the Messiah has come to ransom Israel and the world from its sins.
There are people grinding olives, making wares and talking about the strange stories coming in from the Judean hills. The Romans are taking a census and the town is a bit busier and the local innkeepers cannot keep up with the demand. To top all that off, there are some sightings of some wealthy men from the East, some even call them “Wise Men” headed to tiny Bethlehem just to see the birth of a baby.
“You can also drive through the living nativity in the comfort of your own car. We have signs announcing each scene as they are approaching,” Bogue said.
Whether it’s a warm or cold night – the living nativity will be held regardless, unless canceled by heavy rain.
“There’s been many years when it’s been very cold or windy, or where it’s misting, but we have still been there,” Bogue said. “It’s our dedication and commitment at Grapeland Baptist. Nearly everybody that physically can turns out to help if at all possible. It’s our way to reach out to witness to the community and share the story of Christ with them.”