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West Point First United Methodist Church has held its annual two-night live Nativity for almost two decades. --Wayne Clark

18 years of live nativity

WEST POINT — For an 18th year, the West Point First United Methodist Church has had a two-night live Nativity. It’s the church’s Christmas gift to the community, and once again it drew a good response from the community. Lots of cars drove by a slow speeds to see it and many more parked their cars and walked up to the front of the church to see it. There’s a sound system that plays traditional Christmas carols and a narration of the Christmas story.

“We try to go for simplicity,” said Helen Zachry, who heads up the project each year. “That’s the way it was when Jesus was born. Before each shift we pray for everything to go well, remembering that we can go home to warm beds that night. It wasn’t that way for Mary and Joseph. They had to stay in that stable all night.”

There have been some years where the weather was a problem. People have had to stand in cold weather and on rainy nights.

“It was so cold one year we had to cancel it,” Zachry said.

In most years there’s a live sheep that’s part of the program.

“One year he got away, and one of the shepherds had to run up Seventh Street and catch him before he got to the intersection of Avenue E.”

Those taking part in the Nativity rotate in 30-minute shifts. There are four people portraying the roles of Mary and Joseph. This year they were Shelia and Johnny Matthews, Tiffany and Coleman Reeves, Maya Barker and JahWill Fannings and Katie and the Rev. John Mattox.There have been three stables throughout the years. The first one was stored in the West Point Industries plant on the State Line Road and was blown off the truck when it was being transported to the church in early December.

“It was heartbreaking,” Zachry said. “It was such a beautiful stable, and it was broken into a thousand pieces.”

The next one was more compact, but Joseph had trouble standing up inside it. The third and current one in use is plenty big enough but has to be assembled in sections each year. One constant in the live Nativity is the Star of Bethlehem.

“It was made by Hugh Jones 18 years ago,” Zachry said. “It fits over the roof line of the church. We think about Mr. Jones every year we put it up.”

Each year there’s always Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus and three wise men. The number of shepherds depends on the number of volunteers who will put on the outfit and stand there for 30 minutes. Sometimes there’s three of four, and many times more than that.

“We had seven shepherds on the first shift last night,” Zachry said. “We have plenty of costumes,” Zachry said. “Most of them were made by Terry Scroggs. Terry Fagan made the angel garments for us.”

Zachry has a way of enticing people to play the parts.

“We provide the costumes,” she said. “You don’t have to learn any lines, and you’ll get a free supper.”

Terri Culpepper of Terri’s Mill Village Cafe provides free supper for the cast.

“We have some people who have been doing this for years,” Zachry said. “It’s really special to them. They’re usually on the same shift together.”