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Drive-thru nativity is church’s holiday ministry to the community

DAILY LEADER / KIM HENDERSON / Dianne Ashmore models one of the costumes that will be used in the Drive-Thru Nativity at New Sight Baptist Church. Seamstresses have also sewn costumes for the soldiers, angels, and wise men that appear in 12 different displays. “It’s a blessing to be a part of this effort,” Ashmore, a third-time participant, states.

Thanks to New Sight Baptist Church, two thousand area residents went to Bethlehem last year without ever leaving Lincoln County – or the comfort of their own cars. The congregation will again offer their popular live, drive-thru Nativity this coming weekend at their property located near the Copiah-Lincoln line.

According to organizer Brenda Foster, more than 40 volunteers are a part of the 2013 production, which is scheduled to include 12 drive-by displays. For a congregation that sees the December tradition as a gift to their community, there are plenty of ways to share in the work, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes.

“We have people who build the sets. We have seamstresses that do a phenomenal job making the costumes. We have others who work with the lighting and sound systems. We all work together in hopes that what we’re doing will cause someone to ask, ‘Hey, what is this really about?’ That gives us opportunities to share the real meaning of Christmas,” Foster says.

The cast and sets have grown in the years since the church was first inspired to start a production similar to one a member saw in Searcy, Ark. Wooden animals used in the original offering have been replaced by a living, breathing corral full of donkeys, llamas and sheep, and this effort to recreate the historic biblical account is not without its challenges.

“Last year, the camel got a bit unruly at one point and knocked my brother, Carrol Montgomery, to the ground. Everything turned out all right,” recalls Dianne Ashmore, who has been a part of the crew for the past three years. Visitors to the current production will be able to spot Ashmore in the marketplace scene.

“Christmas has gotten so commercialized now. It’s a blessing to be able to share what Christmas is really about,” she says of her involvement.

Pat Morrison is another volunteer who will be adding authenticity to the event. “I play a basket weaver, so I’ll be walking throughout the town,” the actress shares. Morrison also serves as the church’s secretary, which means she has a pretty good idea of what an undertaking the live Nativity really is.

“The committee actually starts meeting at the first of the year. It takes a lot of preparation and a lot of dedicated people to do something like this,” Morrison says.

She goes on to describe one of the important jobs that can’t be done until just minutes before the cars start coming through this Friday night: “Five or six people are assigned to fill the bottom of paper bags with sand and light a small candle inside them. These bags line the perimeter of the route, and there are a lot of them.”

The animals will also arrive late Friday afternoon, and volunteers will keep them secure overnight. “Kids really like the animals, so they play an important part,” adds Morrison.

Visitors to the Nativity can expect to see member-crafted signs that will help provide a Scriptural context for each scene. They will also receive a gift bag including information about the church at the end of their tour.

Organizers are hoping for record crowds at their re-enactment of the 2,000-year-old story. “We want to invite people to come out and meditate on each scene,” Foster says. “It’s our desire to bring God’s Word to our community.”

The event is free to the public and will be held Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7, from 7-9 p.m. nightly. New Sight Baptist Church is located at 2404 New Sight Road NE, just north of Brookhaven.

For directions or more information, call Brenda Foster at (601) 754-3107 or the church office at (601) 833-2433 from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday.