The Best Live Nativity Ever


By Toni Babcock


Last November, Miss Jenny gave us an unusual assignment. We each had to figure out a way to raise donations for a local food shelf in time for Christmas. It was our 8th grade “emerging leader” challenge of the year. We would be graded on leadership, originality, and project success.

“Use your imaginations,” Miss Jenny prompted. “I’m excited about what you are going to come up with. Who has a great idea?”

Silence filled the classroom. Kenny, a boy who sat behind me spoke up.

“Have a car wash?”

“In December?” Marissa asked from the back of the room, “I don’t think so.”

Everybody started laughing.

“The weather is an obstacle Ken, unless you use your originality to work around the problem.” Miss Jenny said. “You’re the first one to step in and offer an idea. Cars do get dirty in the winter. See what kind of a solution you can come up with. Anybody else?”

Trina raised her hand and offered a new idea. “Hand-tie fleece blankets and sell them?”

Darla, Trina’s friend made a sour look. “That would be hard to do before Christmas,” she said.

“Well,” said Miss Jenny, “nobody says you can’t enlist some help. Learning to recognize talent and delegate responsibility is part of what this challenge is all about. Get your whole family involved!”

That got my gears turning. I’ve got a huge family.

Tamara, a girl sitting across from me could tell I was on to something and whispered, “Jade, do you have an idea?”

“Not yet, but when I do it’s going to be good,” I said.

Miss Jenny sent us home to think of a plan and report back by Friday.

That night I lay on my bed staring at the glow-in-the dark stars I stuck on my bedroom ceiling. ‘There has to be something you can come up with’ I said to myself, ‘Something cool and original’.
The music of Christmas carols floated up the stairs from the living room. “Oh Holy Night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Savior’s birth”

Only five weeks till Christmas! ‘Think Jade, think!’ ‘Please God’ I prayed, ‘Give me an idea!’

Then like a star bursting through the sky on a black night, I thought of it! Of course! A live nativity! My cousins could play the parts!

“This is going to be awesome!” I told myself. I stayed awake past midnight making plans for the best live nativity ever.

The next day, I began to make it happen. First, I called my cousin Cassie on the phone.

“I’m organizing a live nativity to collect donations for a food shelf. Would you like to be in it?” I asked.

“Sure!! What exactly is a live nativity?” she asked.

“It’s when real people dress up to recreate the scene in the stable after Jesus was born, and then they stage it somewhere. I’m thinking of having it at Aunt Anna’s front yard if she’ll let me,” I explained.

“Cool! Who is going to be Mary and Joseph?” she asked.

“Who do you think would work?” I asked her.

“Maybe Jacob and Kali?” she suggested.

“That would work. What do you want to be?” I asked.

“Ummm I’ll be the angel that announces Jesus birth.”

“Yeah, Let me think this whole thing through and make some more phone calls,” I said. “I’ll let you know more later on.”

After supper that night, I wrote on a fresh piece of paper the names of everyone I thought could play each part. Kali would be Mary. Jacob would be Joseph. Peyton, Lucas and my other cousin Tyrus could be the three kings. Cassie, Olivia and Adeline would be perfect angels. Nicolas, Jo-Jo and Hayden could be shepherds. The older cousins could help with set up and make sure everything ran smoothly the night of the show. Of course I would have to get everyone to agree with my plan. It was a great plan so who wouldn’t agree?

Everything was fitting together perfectly. Everyone agreed to be just what I asked them to be, except for one person; my brother Lucas.

“Who is going to be Jesus?” he asked.

“We are using a doll wrapped in a blanket,” I told him.

“But it’s a live nativity. If I am playing a real king, there has to be a real baby,” he informed me. “What about Auntie Anna’s new baby?”

“It will be too cold for a real baby. Besides, she is a girl. A doll will be fine,” I assured him. “We have to think outside the box.”

“Outside the box?” he asked.

“You know the same as, like bowling on the Wii. You don’t use a real bowling ball. You use a Wii remote.”

Lucas looked skeptical. “That’s not the same. I don’t think I want to be a king.”

Lucas! You’ll get to wear a cool costume! Please?” I pleaded.

But I knew pleading wasn’t going to persuade him, so I went quietly on with my plans hoping Lucas would change his mind before the night of the big show. By now, Christmas was only four weeks away!

Back at school, Miss Jenny thought my idea was great.

“I have an aunt and uncle who own a goat farm just outside of Kenyon,” she told me. I’ll see if they would be willing to borrow a couple goats for your nativity!”

“Awesome!” I said. “I have two dogs, and my cousin Kali has a cat. Who says we can’t have two dogs and a cat in the stable?”
Miss Jenny laughed. “Nobody! Go for it!”

Grandpa Kerry agreed to build a stall and manger for my set. One Saturday as I was checking on his progress, I spotted some big sheets of cardboard in the rafters of his garage. “Those would come in handy for extra animals,” I told him.

“You’re right,” he said. “A little paint, a brush and some talent could turn those into cows, donkeys, or whatever you need. I’ll get them down for you.”

“Thanks Grandpa,” I told him. “I’ve only got about four weeks, I better get going!”

I talked to my Sunday School teacher at church about the live nativity, and asked if I could use some robes and other things like shepherd staffs and crowns from the church’s costume department. The church let me borrow almost everything I needed!

Back at home, I was still wishing Lucas would change his mind about being a king, but it wasn’t happening not yet anyway.

One night when I was sitting on the couch talking on the phone with my friend Aimee, Lucas tapped me on the arm and said, “Did you know there may have been more than three kings, and they didn’t get to see Jesus until he was about two? So there shouldn’t really be any kings in your live nativity. They came later.”

I sighed. It looked like my eight year old brother was doing research on the Christmas story.

“Lucas, I’m mixing things up a little you know, making it more exciting for the season. Everyone loves looking at the three kings. It will add more drama.”

“Whatever,” he said, then turned away. Then he looked back and asked, “Hey, do you want to play Legos with me?”

“Later buddy, I’m on the phone right now.” I felt a wee guilty for saying that.

In Sunday School that Sunday, my teacher read us the story of how the carol ‘Silent Night’ came about. It gave me a great idea.

“Can I have a copy of that story about ‘Silent Night’?” I asked him after class. He made a copy for me, and I took it home.

At bedtime I stepped into my brother’s room and announced, “Hey Lucas, can I read you a true story?” I knew my brother loved to have me to read to him at night.

“Sure! What is it?” he asked.

“It’s the true story about the song ‘Silent Night’ and how it came to be.

“Cool!” he said, inviting me to sit on the edge of the bed, “I love true stories.”

I sat next to him and began to read:

Long ago in the far away land of Austria, Christmas Eve was fast approaching. But a problem was about to ruin the special music planned at the Church of St. Nicolas. The church’s organ had broken, and could not be repaired in time!
Was it mice or rust that chewed away on the organ’s pipes? No one knows for sure, but Joseph Mohr, the priest in charge, had to think of a way to bring music to the people of St. Nicholas in time for the midnight service.

That Christmas Eve in 1818, he journeyed to the home of a musician named Franz Gruber who lived nearby. Joseph carried a poem he had written with him. He hoped Franz could put it to guitar music.

‘If we don’t have an organ to sing praises to God, we will use my guitar instead’, he decided.

Franz Gruber created a simple tune for the guitar that would fit the words of the poem perfect; the words we know so well:

Silent nightHoly night
All is calm, all is bright
‘Round yon virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.Sleep in heavenly peace.

“Wasn’t that a great story?” I asked Lucas.

“YeahI liked the part where he thought of using a guitar, just in time for Christmas Eve.”

“Because everything couldn’t be perfect the way he wanted it to be,” I reminded Lucas, “he had to come up with another plan.”

“Right” Lucas’ blue eyes stared into mine, and I think he understood. The live nativity didn’t have to be “perfect”. We could use a doll instead of a real baby.

And I decided Lucas didn’t have to be a king either. Plans change. I’d make Jo-Jo a king instead.

“Lucas, I’ve been thinking. You don’t have to be a king if you don’t want to. I’ll switch things around, and make it work anyway. What we really need is something that will attract a crowd. You know. like music. Mom can play the guitar…. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“You mean have Mom play ‘Silent Night’ on the guitar like in the story?” Lucas asked.

“I mean have Mom play ‘Silent Night’ on the guitar and you sing it!”

I knew my brother Lucas had perfect pitch, rhythm and tone. He loves to sing. This was a no brainer!
“You could dress up in regular clothes like a real caroler. With guitar music and your singing, we’ll collect more food for the food shelf!”

Lucas looked off into space, and his face lit up with a smile. “Cool! I’ll do it!”

The last two weeks before the show was crazy. My cousin Cassie came over and we spread the cardboards I got from Grandpa out onto the garage floor. We painted a cow, a donkey and two sheep. Mom helped us cut them out with a one-edged razor. Later in the week, Grandpa made simple stands to nail them to, so they would stand up.

Aunt Anna came up with a great idea! Serve hot chocolate and cookies to people when they stopped by to view our nativity! She baked dozens of homemade cookies for the ‘big night’.

Grandpa finished the manger, the stall, and stands and everything looked super. He even made a star on a stick, and attached it over the stable.

I printed out “Live Nativity” flyers and placed them on door knobs all over Aunt Anna’s neighborhood. Then disaster hit. Three days before the live nativity, Lucas walked into my bedroom at six-thirty in the morning.

“Remember those mice that chewed away at the organ pipes?” he asked.

His voice was sounding a bit too scratchy.

“Lucas! What’s a matter with your voice?” I said, sitting straight up in bed with my eyes wide open.

“It sort of hurts,” he said, holding his hand over the front of his neck.

I threw back the covers. “No way!”

Mom and Lucas had been practicing their song together all week, he couldn’t get sick now! I grabbed Lucas by the hand and marched him to my Mom’s bathroom door. I knocked hard.

“Mom, are you in there? Lucas is getting a sore throat!”

“Just a minute!” Within seconds Mom opened the door. She felt Lucas for a temperature.

“How bad does your throat hurt?” she asked him.

“Pretty bad,” said Lucas. Mom and I exchanged worried looks. Then Mom got a flashlight and looked inside his mouth.

Mom decided to take Lucas to Urgent Care to have his throat checked for strep. Whew! No strep throat! That day we treated him with cherry flavored cough drops, cream of chicken soup, gummy vitamins, and ice cream.

I was off of school for a few days so I was able to wait on Lucas instead. I read him stories, checked his temperature, fluffed up his pillows and cleaned out his hamster cage. I played Legos. Lots of Legos. I was basically Lucas’ slave for two days, but I didn’t mind. I sort of forgot how much fun it was spending time with my brother.

“This is fun playing Legos with you,” I told him.

“You too sis,” he said. On day three, Lucas announced his throat didn’t hurt!

On the day of the Live Nativity, it was thirty-six degrees! The baby goats showed up at 1:00 along with some hay. Uncle Pete drove metal stakes into the frozen ground to tie the goats to, so they wouldn’t wander off. He set up blue yard lights to make our set look like night even in the day. Cousins Josh and Tyler even showed up to help set up (and eat cookies of course!)

My pug dog Ella scared the goats and wouldn’t leave them alone. She had to stay in the house. Our dog Tyson was fine. He sat in front of the wooden manger guarding “baby Jesus”. The cat ran off and hid.

All the cousins were in costume by 1:30. Aunt Anna and Aunt Becky were hurrying around the kitchen getting hot chocolate and cookie trays together.
We pulled a big bin into position and posted a “Food Donations Here” sign on it. Me and my cousin Michaela got the kids into position.

We carefully placed “baby Jesus” in the straw filled manger. Cassie and Olivia who were dressed as angels, stood behind the manger holding a glittery banner which read “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

Kali sat beside the manger, looking positively Mary-like. Jacob stood on the other side, holding a walking stick. Nick and Hayden, and angel Adeline wandered around the yard keeping watch over the flocks by night. They would never stand in one spot anyway.

A few people from the neighborhood began to gather. I watched as they dropped donations of canned food into the bin. Some people dropped in envelopes of money!

I told Mom and Lucas when to start the ‘Silent Night” song.

Mom took a spot with her guitar and began to strum, and Lucas began to sing in perfect pitch, “Silent night, Holy night”

I was so proud of my little brother.

More people showed up with more food to donate! Cars began to stop, and people got out to watch. An old lady got out some Kleenex to dry her tears.

“How precious,” she said, dabbing her eyes.

“Thanks ‘sis,” Lucas whispered, “This is the best live nativity ever!”

“And you are the best little brother ever,” I told him, giving him a hug.

Miss Jenny came with her aunt and uncle to see the show, before taking the goats home afterwards.

“This is fantastic!” she said, looking around.

They listened to Lucas sing, sipping hot chocolate with us.

“I can see you put in some real effort into this I’m so proud of you Jade,” she told me.

By 5:30 p.m. we were finished with the show. We had gone through three trays of cookies and five gallons of hot chocolate! Our donation bin was filled to the top with cans and boxes of all sorts of food, plus seventy dollars!

The week after Christmas, everyone who participated in the challenge at school turned in a detailed report on the success of their “event”. What did I get for leadership, originality and project success? A+, A+, A+!

Lucas was right, this really was the “Best Live Nativity ever”!

Toni Babcock is a freelance Christian writer from South St. Paul. She enjoys writing short stories for children and young people, as well as memoirs, poetry and spiritual essays.

Article Source: WRITERS