PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 13, 2013

Nativity persists despite inclement weather

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

NEDERLAND — A little moisture can’t halt a miracle.

The clouds opened up and drenched everyone at Wesley United Methodist Church, 3515 Helena Ave., but the birth of Jesus Christ proceeded as a plan during the church’s annual live nativity scene Friday evening.

“You know, I’m sure it rained back then,” the Rev. Douglas Caldwell, pastor of Wesley UMC, said. “The circumstances are what they are.”

The misty night only intensified the ambiance as Mary and Joseph trudged through the damp grass with her husband Joseph and a donkey in tow, in search of an inn. The couple were relegated to the stable, where Mary gave birth to a bouncing baby boy who would be the son of God. Dancers in exotic costumes added to the background scenery, and angels beamed from all corners of the grounds. Throw in the bleats of the goats and sheep in front of the stable, and a live camel accompanying the Three Wise Men, and it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine oneself in ancient Bethlehem.

Caldwell said bringing the story of Christmas to life has been an immeasurable benefit to both the community and the church.

“The community gets to experience the interaction with the people,” Caldwell said. “It adds a different dimension.”

The event began 24 years ago as a still nativity scene. But when director Patsy Wagner took over 18 years ago, she had other ideas.

“I wanted to make it more realistic so people could get the feel of it,” Wagner said. The most drastic change she made was adding the live animals, which are provided by Mark Mills, of Brazoria.

Planning for next year’s affair will begin as soon as the animals are loaded into Mills’ truck on Sunday. Caldwell said the process officially kicked off in August.

“I came back from summer vacation with a beard and said, ‘It’s time to start working on the live nativity scene,’” Caldwell said. “It’s a gift to the community, so it takes a lot of work.”

The scene will be even more vibrant the evenings of Saturday, Dec. 14, and Sunday, Dec. 15, if the weather cooperates. Shows will run on the half hour from 6 to 9 p.m. as long as the weather permits. Between shows, children will be able to pet the animals and participate in biblical-themed arts and crafts activities in a makeshift Bethlehem market.

The actors were only able to perform one show on Friday before inclement weather forced them into their tents. But for an emotional Wagner, one show was enough.

“Tonight was very special,” she said, her voice breaking through tears. “When the curtains opened and the baby was there — his little face just glowed.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA