The beloved Christmas carol “Silent Night” took on special significance as a small group at one northwest Oklahoma City church braced against the wind.
A young woman and her husband knelt around a makeshift cradle, joined by people of varying ages and accouterments.
The annual Living Nativity at New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) placed church members “at the manger,” the Rev. Tom Lyda said.
“The main thing is it centers our community around the birth of Christ,” said Lyda, the church's senior pastor.
“It reminds us of how delicate and yet unique that experience was because we get to be at the manger. By transporting ourselves back to the manger scene, we become part of the Christmas story.”
New Covenant, 12000 N Rockwell Ave., was one of several churches to offer a living nativity pageant this season. The traditional dramatizations typically involve colorful costumes, live animals and sometimes, frigid weather.
Church members took shifts portraying various biblical figures. Once in costume and assembled in the crèche area created in front of the church, they stood silently and sang Christmas carols.
Jay McIntosh, 54, has helped coordinate the church's nativity pageant since its beginning in 1991. He said the event has evolved over the years, but the church's commitment to doing it has never wavered.
“We wanted to do something that sparked feelings about the meaning of Christ's birth,” he said.
Participants said the joy of re-enacting that first Christmas is derived not from the theatrical aspects of the presentation but from the added spiritual dimension that comes from taking on the persona of the biblical figures prominent in the Christmas story.
Lyda, dressed in a bright robe and wearing a faux beard, portrayed one of the Three Wise Men.
Husband and wife, Marcy and James Finch, portrayed Mary and Joseph.
Carlotta Canada, 67, donned a white garment and wings to become an angel.
Carson Lyda, 15, Tom Lyda's son, also portrayed Joseph.
Marcy Finch, 37, said she has childhood memories of going to drive-thru living nativity pageants with her parents.
“Now, I'm getting to be a part of it so I've come full circle,” she said.
Finch said portraying Mary, the mother of Jesus, resonated with her.
“Being a mother myself, when they tell us to look reverently at the baby, I connect with that,” she said. “And it is a humbling experience to play Mary because of the fact that God chose her.”
James Finch, 38, said being a stepfather to Kenny Larson, 7, has given him a new perspective of the biblical figure Joseph.
“Most people don't think of him that way, but I do. He stepped right in there and became a father to Jesus,” he said.
Canada said the Dec. 16 event at New Covenant was the first time she had participated in a living Christmas pageant.
“When we sang Christmas carols, it was kind of solemn,” she said. “It gives you a chance as you are standing there, to think what it might have been like.”
Carson Lyda said he found portraying Joseph meaningful.
“He was a paternal figure and he was Mary's partner through it all,” he said.
Church members said all of the effort is worthwhile to remind the community about the real meaning of Christmas — the birth of the Messiah.
“It helps people, especially children remember that it's not just all about Santa Claus and the decorations and the gifts,” James Finch said.