LAWRENCETOWN, N.S. - While you don’t have to see it to believe it, Lawrencetown United Baptist Church’s live nativity brings the story of Bethlehem alive complete with cows and sheep, wise men, shepherds, kings, Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus.
This year, Jesus is a girl and organizers believe the story of that humble birth in a manger more than 2,000 years ago is as important as ever. Maybe more important.
“The way the world is right now, it’s so discardable, it’s so broken – and it’s getting worse and worse,” said Janice Roscoe, who is helping bring the story to life. “I believe people are looking for hope and peace. And the meaning of life.”
The Dec. 23 event is at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition grounds. Everyone is invited.
While most people are familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth, not everybody is, said Marian Pietersma, who has helped produce the pageant since its inception in 2008.
“Maybe the young children don’t know it if they’re not told by their parents,” said Pietersma.
“There are so few people being raised in the faith, in the Christian faith,” said Roscoe. “They don’t know. People really don’t know – more than you realize.”
Roscoe hopes the story of Bethlehem is something people can harken to and perhaps set their compass by.
“We hope so. I think people are searching,” Roscoe said. “All you have to do is look at the Hollywood magazines and we know money doesn’t make people happy. We may think it does and it may help a little bit, but happiness, deep happiness, has to come from within us and yet something greater than us. I believe, as I said before, this gives people hope.”
The live nativity has its own atmosphere.
“In the beginning, there’s excitement. The animals will be there. The children will be all over the sheep,” Pietersma said.
“Everybody’s joyful,” said Roscoe. And she marvels at the animals that ‘baahhh’ or ‘mooo’ at just the right times. “Everyone loves that and it helps them to realize this is probably what it was like in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.”
“At the end, we’re asking people to leave quietly. There will not be any announcements or anything when the play ends,” said Pietersma. “We just want quietness for people to take it in, and just leave like that.”
She wants them to contemplate what they just witnessed, and take it home with them.
The church’s original live nativity in 2008 was outdoors at the exhibition grounds.
“When it was almost over it started to snow,” said Pietersma.
“It was incredible. People still kept coming and they couldn’t get in to see,” said Roscoe. “It was amazing. It wasn’t blowing. There was a lot of snow down. It was completely white and people came from everywhere.”
People stood in the falling snow outside Agriculture Ally, a narrow area between two buildings, waiting to get a glimpse of the famous scene.
“It was packed and when it was done those who couldn’t see, then they’d come in. There was a way made for them to come in,” said Roscoe. “It was just an amazing, miraculous evening. And everybody, even though it stormed, they were very joyful and so happy to be there no matter what.”
“After that first year we headed indoors at the cattle sale building,” said Pietersma. “It’s already a very rustic building. It was perfect. All we had to do was take the gates away and put the hay down, put the crib down, bring the animals in and it was ready. And people could sit dry. They didn’t have to sit in the elements anymore.”
Cast and Costumes
As for the costumes, Pietersma was the seamstress behind those. They’ve all been established over the years and are easily maintained. This year, there are four shepherds but for Pietersma, one more is quickly and easily made. She said they don’t change over time. They’re inspected every year, the gowns for the little angels are ironed, and costumes are matched against that year’s actors – do they fit?
“I’m very happy to say my son Hank and his wife Emily and their little daughter Lily are going to be Mary, Joseph, and the baby,” Pietersma said.
While most of the cast members are local, there will be a wise man from Ontario who is visiting. Others are from St. Croix Cove, Hampton, and Lawrencetown. Animals are coming from Brickton and Lawrencetown.
“It’s an outreach,” said Pietersma. “Especially for the people who don’t come to church but will come to another venue like the exhibition, which is very open to everybody.”
A free-will offering will be accepted and donated to local foodbanks.