A hometown banker becomes a Roman soldier given the task of counting the citizens of Caesar's empire. Young women bravely climb out of a window and onto a second story roof to become herald angels. Dressed in ornate robes, a local clothing manufacturer becomes a king following a brilliant star as he searches for prophecy's fulfillment.
These are among the many characters portrayed in "One Night in Bethlehem," a Drive-Through Living Nativity presented each year by First Baptist Church of Thomson. This year's Living Nativity will be open from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Dec. 12-14.
The only access to the Nativity is from the Warrenton Highway onto National Avenue. A right turn at the intersection of National Avenue and Johnson Avenue moves visitors into the Nativity area. The traffic pattern will be clearly marked by bright red and white signs along the entry route. There is no charge for admission.
More than 80 actors, all of them First Baptist member volunteers, will be involved each evening in 10 different scenes.
Narration and music guide visitors through the story of Christ's birth. From the court of Caesar Augustus to the village of Bethlehem to the treasure-filled tents of the Wise Men, these scenes work together to evoke a time and an event that changed the world. Unlike many depictions of the Nativity story, the First Baptist presentation is not a tableau with actors stiffly posed and unmoving.
"There's movement in every scene," said Kathie Mogish, one of the event coordinators. "We want to show our visitors how Mary might have reacted to the angel's appearance. We want them to see Joseph and Mary being turned away from the inn. We want the amazement of the shepherds to seem real. It's important to us that each person who drives through is drawn into the story and its meaning. And we try to do that by bringing a sense of life to each scene."
That sense of life has become a trademark of the First Baptist Nativity.
One of the most popular scenes in the Nativity is Bethlehem village. Here the actors portray the activities that must have gone on each day in Bethlehem. Vendors sell their wares. Women draw water from the village well. Children play games as Roman soldiers walk the dusty streets.
But the activity is not limited to the human actors. Another special element of the First Baptist Nativity is the use of live animals. The animals, which include three llamas, three donkeys, and seven sheep, are brought in each year from Second Time Around Mini Farm, Inc., which is located in Washington.
"Our Nativity just wouldn't seem right without Vicky Moses' beautiful animals," said Ms. Mogish. "They add such a wonderful feeling of authenticity to the scenes they're in."
The event is the church's Christmas gift to the community, Ms. Mogish said.
"Every person who is involved in this - from the construction to cast recruiting to meal preparation to set decoration to acting - every person does this voluntarily as an act of love," she said. "We want to share the joy of Christ's birth with as many people as we possibly can."
For more information about the Drive-Through Living Nativity, call Ms. Mogish, FBC Director of Education, at 706-595-4252.