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Local churches host Live Nativity Scenes this Christmas

By Kristin Fox

This weekend two local churches, Old Savannah Baptist Church and Cartoogechaye Baptist Church, will present drive thru Nativity scene productions as a special Christmas gift to their communities. Members of both churches have given their time and talent to produce live Nativity scenes telling the story of the true meaning of Christmas. Both events are drive thru only. The events are free to the public, but donations to offset future productions are appreciated.

Old Savannnah Baptist Church, located at 138 Sutton Branch Road, Sylva across from Country Road Farms,will hold their two-night event on December 2nd and 3rd from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each night or until the last car drives through on the church grounds.

Cartoogechaye Baptist Church located at 465 W. Old Murphy Road, Franklin will hold its production on December 2nd 3rd, 4th, 9th and 10th from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Old Savannnah Baptist Church

For the past 11 years, Old Savannah Baptist Church has hosted the drive thru Nativity as a Christmas gift to the community. The church started the drive thruNativity in 2011 with Amy Tatro taking reigns to a non-traditional approach to a Christmas play. After Tatro moved away Chip and Tiffany Allen became the directors of the production.

Each year the church gives the drive-thru Nativity a new theme (“title”) and construct the scenes according to the message it is trying to put out. This year’sNativity scene is titled Follow the Star.

 Driving through the live Nativity, one is transported back to a hope-filled time. At Old Savannah, visitors will find the Christmas story told amidst the animals: cows, sheep, donkeys, goats and a camel.  Each station features live animals.

Volunteers of all ages dressed in attire from days-of-old come together in the true spirit of Christmas to portray the biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ. The event features live shepherds, ornately dressed wise men, townspeople bustling in Bethlehem and a recorded scriptural narration that will warm your heart.

The Nativity participants are aged anywhere from 5 year olds to 70 year olds. Anyone who is willing to participate in a spot is given a part in the production.

 Presenting the Christmas production to the public means a lot to church members as stated by the following members:

“The Nativity is a way to show the community about God’s love for us through the Christmas Story,said A. Blanton.

“Putting on the Nativity puts Christ into the season for all to see and enjoy; not only see the little town of Bethlehem as it might have looked in Biblical times and the characters in costume of the times, but live animals as well,” said J. Frady. “It is a blessing not only to the members who make this possible, but we pray most of all, that it is a blessing and testimony to the community.”

“The Nativity is to see the Word of God come to life not only in the eyes of the children but in the adults’eyes,” said D. Crisp. People can put a visual to the Christmas Story as it would have been in those days.”

 “Over the years, the church has constructed scenes that have kept well year to year and can be built upon which has helped to cut down the time it takes to build the scenes,” said Corbin Allen. “In the past few years, it has taken months to prep behind the scenes, however, now the construction work begins the month prior. 

“Our church members are great,” he added. “When it comes to a work day they will show up over multiple Saturday’s and even the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving to help construct scenes, hang lights, make ornaments, pack gift bags, dig out costumes and burn CDs.  Our members get excited over this mission and are always thinking of ways to contribute their time, talent, animals and costumes, etc.  It takes nearly everyone in our church to present the Nativity.” 

Over 50 people in costume will bring alive the story of Jesus’ birth.  As visitors pull up to the gate they will be greeted with a CD or how to access via our podcast the narration of the Nativity.

You will have to take a census and feel free to pass your gold coin to the Roman Soldier in order to gain entrance into the City of Bethlehem,” said Allen. “When you drive through the Bethlehem marketplace, you will feel as if you have stepped into the pages of the Bible. Your journey to Jesus will culminate with the scene of our Savior’s Birth.  All possible without leaving the comfort of your vehicle. Cars, trucks, buses – all are welcome.” 

 This event is a great way to share the story of the Birth of Christ with families, while starting a new family tradition.

 “For some, the holidays can have people a little low or downtrodden,” said Allen. “Society keeps us too busy during this time and we easily forget the magic of the season.  Sometimes it’s the financial burden of the holidays or missing our loved ones who have gone on before us. 

We find the Nativity presentation gives everyone a much-needed boost, offering light and hope to our world every year,” he added. The Nativity also gives us an opportunity to reach someone who may not be that open to coming into a church to come through the drive-thru.  We are able to get the message out to everyone so they can see and understand the true meaning of Christmas.

Cartoogechaye Baptist Church

This year, Cartoogechaye Baptist Church will present their biennial live Nativity. The church holds the event every other year, because the production takes months of labor to put on the production. The live Nativity is directed by Tim and Janice Brackett and features participants of all ages.

Cartoogechaye Baptist started the holiday event in 2010 and did it every year until it got so large, that in 2016 started having it every two years.

In addition, the production is such a large project for a small church, and while it has many talented and gifted people, it is still a large undertaking. Another reason it is held biennially is the church wants to keep it fresh and keep people wanting to come back. Each year the production is different and even though you may have come through it another time it doesn’t mean it will be the same this time.

We don’t and won’t change the story but we do change the look of the town, props etc. so each time folks come through it is different,” said Tim Brackett.

 The production is a drive thru Nativity, but it is really an experience that will take you back to the time of Jesus’ birth. Visitors will experience the sights, smells and sounds of the time period. The production has fivedesignated scenes that tell the story as you drive thru Bethlehem.

The live Nativity scene features hand painted sets creating a realistic Bethlehem village scene. Live animals including camels, donkeys, chicken sheep and goats are part of the Nativity.

After driving up to the church visitors to the live Nativity will hear a brief introduction with instructions, be given an audio device and then proceed on to drive through Bethlehem.

While driving through the live Nativity, visitors will see authentic scenes depicting the Christmas story. Church volunteers are dressed up in authentic period costumes many of them handmade by church members.

The church started working on the production in September. The building crew has worked every Saturday while the painting and decorating teams have worked just about every day possible on the sets, props and costumes for the live Nativity. Countless hours have been spent working on this project as well as many hours of prayer for this event.

The message the church hopes to give to the community from the live Nativity is the message of our Savior’s birth.

It means a lot to our small church to put on this production; it is what we are known for in thecommunity and surrounding area,” said Tim Brackett. Jesus calls us to be the salt and light of the world and to go out into the world with that light and that is what we are trying to do. Sharing the light of Jesus through our Nativity.

“I would like to thank our church family for working so hard on the live nativity,” he added. “I also want to thank Linda Nicholson owner of The Fabric Station in Mountain City, GA for her generous donation of fabric for our scenes and a member of our community that has donated storage space to store our materials. Many thanks to everybody involved.

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