FBC ‘Living Nativity’

Story by Angela McGuigan

First Baptist Church of Russellville will host its annual “Living Nativity” Dec. 21 through 23, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bank of America on West Main Street. This is a live reenactment of the First Christmas that uses a cast and crew, living animals, and a real baby to play baby Jesus. Visitors are able to enjoy a 30 minute production of the Story of Christmas, while they view the manger, angels, and animals that are available for petting.

While the production has been hosted by FBC for the past 20 years, Dr. Bruce Brown and his wife Debbie have been in charge of the nativity for the past 15 years. Dr. Brown said, “this is FBC’s gift to the community. This allows us to share the way we believe the First Christmas happened, while providing a great experience for families to share.”

However, this is no small task that the Browns have inherited. According to Mrs. Brown the production requires 300 people total each year with 72 people each night in character.

“While one production is going on, we have vans rotating people back and forth and costume changes happening back at the church,” said Dr. Brown. “Also at the church we serve lots of refreshments and do things like cook chili for the volunteers. It is a really neat thing when people sign up, because we have whole families get involved,” he added.

Taking on the nativity scene is not the only responsibility the Browns have added to their life; they now have a small farm of animals as well.

“It was really hard finding animals each year to borrow for the three days, and an even bigger hassle to return them,” said Mrs. Brown. Now, the Browns own their own sheep, goats, and even a mule that they use every year. “It’s really great because we bring a couple of bales of hay, and it turns into a petting zoo for the kids. We do have to keep harnesses on them though to keep them from running down Main Street,” said Dr. Brown.

The Browns are not the only ones who have been working with the nativity scene for many years. John Lonon of Russellville has been helping with the production since the beginning.

“I began by building copper angel wings needed for the nativity, and would use a cutting torch and welder to make them,” said Lonon. He also said that they church tries to keep the nativity scene consistent, but they have expanded the manger scene over the years.

“I believe it is a great time of fellowship and such a plus for the community. It gets families and neighbors together to enjoy such a moving experience,” said Lonon. “We are going to keep coming back every year because the public opinion and feedback we get. People enjoy it so much and the community receives it so well,” Lonon added.

Amy Casey began playing an important role in the nativity scene five years ago when her son, Jacob, played baby Jesus. “It was such a moving experience for me because I realized that Mary was a real mother like me. I wondered if she counted his fingers and toes just like I did,” said Casey.

Today, Casey is the coordinator for all the babies who play Jesus in the live nativity. “It means so much more when the baby is live, because it lets children see Jesus as he was as a baby,” she added. Although she has lots of help finding babies within the church and from Dr. Vickie Henderson, she invites people from outside the church to participate as well. To sign up please call Amy Casey at (479) 967-1653.

The Browns encourage people to come visit the FBC “Living Nativity” at the Bank of America and celebrate the birth of Christ. “We want to invite the people in our community to experience the true meaning of Christmas.”

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