HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn
“Start tending the sheep!” The warning is issued from a pint-sized shepherd on this chilly Saturday night in the parking lot of Living Faith Baptist Church.
The shepherds are a middle stop of the church’s drive-through nativity experience, and these kids in belted tunics have been waiting for the first car to arrive at their scene. Inside the cars, families listen to a CD of the Christmas story they received as they drove in; each track corresponds to a different scene. Outside, the shepherds act it out, tending their sheep like any other day, until a heavenly host appears above them.
“Christmas seems to be the most hectic time, the most stressful time of year,” says Pastor Adam Cruse. “And so, really, we want to bring it back to what is Christmas truly all about? The simple message of Christmas is about a savior who came into the world, and so we just wanted people to come back to the focus of it all.”
Living Faith planned to do the nativity last year, but were snowed out, making this year the “second annual attempt,” according to associate pastor Daniel Waters. A few minutes before this year’s performance is set to start at 5:30, cars begin lining up at the edge of the parking lot. Turning off their lights, they drive single-file past several scenes: Mary and Joseph hearing individually from angels; the couple with their new baby and the manger, shepherds tending their flocks; and wise men from the east visiting the family.
The last two scenes don’t feature any actors. In the corner of the parking lot stand three empty crosses, the middle one slightly larger with a white cloth wrapped around it. Next to the crosses, a small trailer has been fashioned into an empty tomb.
“We didn’t want to just focus on the Christmas scene, because it’s very easy to forget what Christ did and why he came,” Cruse said. “He came to die on the cross and then to come out of the grave, so we wanted to depict those scenes as well.”