Even though visitors may be familiar with the story, the impact of seeing and stepping into a living nativity scene is an unforgettable reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Surrounded by live animals and seated on hay, actors have effectively recreated the first Christmas inside a small stable outside the West Minot Church of God.
With a watchful angel looking down from above, Mary carefully cradles baby Jesus in her arms. Joseph sits alongside her. So do a few shepherds. On the stable floor is a small but ornate chest bearing the gifts of the three wise men.
"We give the season actual meaning instead of all the commerciality that it has become, trying to keep the meaning true," said William Wilson. Wilson was portraying Joseph.
Members of the live nativity scene at the West Minot Church of God Saturday were Jon Settig, shepherd, left; Shauna Hamilton as Mary; William Wilson as Joseph; and Alyssa Ondrovich, shepherd, right. The angel, standing, is played by Ciara Peterson. The scene will be repeated today from 3-7 p.m.
"I love doing it. It is a great way to show the true meaning of Christmas," added Shauna Hamilton, who played the role of Mary during Saturday's unveiling of the live nativity scene.
The Rev. Jeff Heber was at the church Saturday, alternating between shepherding livestock in the sub-zero cold and visiting with people over coffee and hot cocoa inside the church.
"This is the fifth time now," said Heber. "We just really want to give people the experience of that first Christmas, especially with the little ones to see the live animals and live people. It puts an image in their minds and spirits and in their hearts."
The Reddig family of Minot was among the early visitors to the live nativity scene Saturday afternoon. Jayden, 4, and Addison, 5, were keeping a close eye on the miniature horses and goats.
"They like it. It's exciting for them," said Allison Reddig, their mother. "It's important to teach our kids the real reason for Christmas. That's why we're here."
"Pretty neat," added Quinn Reddig, father. "It's cool to see the live animals and live characters."
Other visitors to the nativity scene had similar comments. Facial expressions, young and old, sent a message to participants that the live nativity scene was fulfilling its intended purpose.
"It's fun to see the faces light up," said Ciara Peterson. Peterson was acting as an angel. "It's a fun way to show the Christmas story. The kids know the Christmas story, but they are able to see Mary and Joseph and the angel and the animals. It's a fun way to show the true meaning of Christmas in a live way."
"Amen to that," said Chris Ondrovich, associate pastor. "Christmas, I think, is the greatest holiday there is. It is a chance for us to celebrate our savior, a gift from God. We wanted to bring a classic story, a real life story, with some personality to it."
The live nativity scene will be repeated today from 3 to 7 p.m. It is open to the public. The West Minot Church of God is located at 1105-16th St. NW.