Published January 11, 2007
For Catholics, there are many ways of adoring Christ, such as eucharistic adoration, the celebration of Eucharist at daily Mass, the study of the word of God in Scripture, and works of charity toward the poor. Then there is a unique form of adoration: the live Nativity.
St. Francis of Assisi has been credited with staging the first live Nativity, or crèche scene, on Christmas Eve in 1223 when the tiny village of Greccio, Italy, was transformed into a new Bethlehem. Francis’s goal was to focus attention onto the Christ child and God’s humble gift of himself to the faithful. Through the live Nativity believers may enter into God’s humility in becoming man and allowing his Son to be born in such humble surroundings among the poorest of the poor, with stable animals as witnesses. Catholics have celebrated Christmas with crèche scenes ever since.
This past Advent the North Georgia mountain parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Blairsville held a live Nativity. The Dec. 16 event was sponsored by the Secular Franciscan Community (SFO) of Siroki Brjeg, an emerging fraternity whose home parish is St. Francis.
Glenn Berns, a founder of the fraternity, as well as proprietor of the Sugar Creek Alpaca Farm in Blue Ridge, brought three of his alpacas to stand in with the participants: Jasmine Gonzalez, who portrayed Mary; Stephen Smith, who portrayed Joseph; Ray Crock and Ralph Kwiatkowski (both SFOs) as Wise Men; T.J. Smith, Josh Berger and Michael Boemanns as shepherds; and Jessica Smith, Mary Smith, Rose Berger and Christy Boemanns who served as angels.
The live Nativity event lasted four hours and offered participants a solid block of time to meditate on the poverty of Christ and the humility of God to become man, from the perspectives of the characters.
“Having the animals there made it great, and everyone loved them,” commented Berns. He added, “But I hope it didn’t detract from the prayerfulness the occasion affords us. If we aren’t prayerfully centered or prepared, we lose something in the celebration. We can never do too much to prepare ourselves for the personality we are taking on.”
Helping to add to the realism of the event was the winter chill that descended on the mountains.
Gonzalez, a Union County High School senior, said, “I loved the way our angels sang. Their voices sounded so pretty, and it made it seem real—and heavenly. I was so honored to be asked to play Mary.”