“I look at it as a really important ministry not just for the people who come but for the kids who participate,” Rev. Patti Walz said of Baldwinsville First United Methodist Church’s annual live Nativity scene. Shown here, a young shepherd frolics in the snow during the 2016 show. (Submitted photo)
Neither snow nor rain nor lack of donkeys kept the Baldwinsville First United Methodist Church from hosting its yearly live Nativity scene last year, and this weekend’s show will go on as well. The ninth annual Nativity scene will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.
“Over the years it’s been tweaked,” said the Rev. Patti Walz, associate pastor of FUMC.
This year’s live Nativity will feature miniature horses from McCarthy’s in Van Buren and sheep from Linda Miller’s Rainbow Acre Fiber Farm in Lysander. Walz said alpacas from Rainbow Acre also might make an appearance, standing in for the three Wise Men’s camels.
“Years ago we had a camel, but it came from Utica and it was very costly to bring it here,” Walz said.
In addition to the menagerie of four-footed volunteers, the cast of the live Nativity features 40 actors, plus a choir and 20 behind-the-scenes volunteers.
The tour begins inside the church, where a prophet tells of a child who will be born: Jesus.
“Then you hear the angels that appeared to Joseph and Mary,” Walz said.
Roman soldiers will be on hand to direct traffic from the church into the “field,” where young shepherds will be frolicking with their flocks. The centerpiece of the Nativity scene, of course, is the manger where Jesus was born.
“We have two families with 7-month-olds who will be playing the Holy Family,” Walz said. “One family has a 3-year-old, and we’re putting her in an angel costume and letting her run around the manger scene.”
After touring the live Nativity scene, visitors can head back inside for hot chocolate, cookies and crafts for the little ones. A daily bread “marketplace” will be set up for people to donate to the Baldwinsville Community Food Pantry. Admission to the live Nativity is free, but donations of nonperishable food items or financial donations are welcome.
Walz is hoping the weather will hold steady for this year’s Nativity. Last year’s volunteers and visitors braved snow, sleet and wind that knocked over the tent housing baby Jesus, but that didn’t deter one little shepherd, Walz noted.
“He was lying in a snowbank catching snowflakes with his tongue,” she said.
The live Nativity offers children a chance to visualize — and be a part of — the Christmas story instead of just reading about it in Sunday school.
“It’s pretty special to be able to offer this to the community. I look at it as a really important ministry not just for the people who come, but for the kids who participate,” Walz said. “Being able to visualize … makes a bigger impact than just telling the story.”
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.