Live Nativities in The Woodlands offer a visual window into the Christmas story
Riding a camel or petting a donkey while dressed in one’s Christmas best may not be the first activity that comes to mind while celebrating the season.
But on Christmas Eve at StoneBridge Church in The Woodlands, the scene is exactly that.
Pam Sweebe is the original coordinator of the live Nativity — complete with a stable, costumes and cast of animals — that happens yearly there.
She said that the church provides this hands-on opportunity because it’s a way for children to grasp the Christmas story by actually touching real animals and interacting with Mary and Joseph characters.
“The live Nativity is touchable and real; children can smell the hay, pet the baby animals, ride the camel and experience the story of Jesus’ birth,” Sweebe said.
This family experience is a collaboration of several volunteer teams who plan for the scene throughout the year. They start by reserving the camels, donkeys, sheep and lambs and their handlers.
Then, they assess their costume and stable situation: ensuring that the characters, from the decorated wise men to the simple shepherds, are appropriately dressed and the stage is properly set.
Volunteers are recruited to play the different parts; the church even draws from their youth for the cast.
“Joseph, Mary, three wise men and a varying number of shepherds bring the Nativity to life,” Sweebe said.
Those volunteers are to portray the scene from 1 to 4 p.m. at the church for Christmas Eve service attendees and the community as a whole.
Elsewhere in The Woodlands, at Christ Church United Methodist Church along Research Forest Drive, this will be their 22nd year hosting a live Nativity.
They have students and families from their church volunteer in shifts from 4 to 11 p.m. and are to offer coffee and cookies to those who come to see the scene.
Lynette Read, the church’s communications director, said that they portray the Nativity as a visual window into the birth of Jesus.
“It is especially moving when (attendees are) coming out of the service, where you just had a candlelight singing of Silent Night and then walk outside and see Mary, Joseph the baby Jesus, shepherds, wise men and the animals,” Read said.