Live Nativity in our Neighborhoods
Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus may look Facebook perfect at your neighborhood church’s live nativity performance, but you may be shocked if only those flimsy stable plywood walls and bales of hay could talk. Here are some nativity events happening around the neighborhood and fun details about each:
Bethlehem Village at Bellaire United Methodist Church
Fri., Dec. 6-Sat., Dec. 7, 6-8 p.m.
4417 Bellaire Blvd.
Meet shepherds, carpenters, potters and pet some adorable animals while following the Holy family’s footsteps to the stable. After your journey, stay for refreshments and family-friendly activities. Over in Bellaire, the Methodist church is preparing for their 13th annual Bethlehem village. They expect more than 1,000 visitors to enjoy the event made possible by more than 100 church members playing costumed characters and workers constructing eleven sets, an indoor area for the animals and perhaps most importantly...cookies!
Even though the church is in the process of remodeling a large portion of the building, Bethlehem Village coordinator, Sue Ann Compton, shared, “Because of the construction, we have needed to relocate and redesign some sets, but as they say on Broadway (and apparently in church cafetoriums), ‘The show must go on!’”
Christmas Alive - West University Methodist Church
Sunday, Dec. 8, 6 p.m.
3611 University Blvd.
Southeast Texas is known for longhorns, armadillos and rattlesnakes. But camels? Not so much.
Even though they sometimes have to be booked two years in advance, the wise men in the West University Methodist Christmas Alive performance have always had the deluxe Cadillac humped model of Biblical times four-legged transportation. (Besides the one year the show had to be rescheduled because of weather and the wise men settled for the economy model llama). The camels are majestic but can be temperamental. Choir director Lynne Jackson remembers, “There was the time the camel went rogue and kicked an adult choir member. They have also been known to often pee in inappropriate times, like when the pastor is praying or the wise men are presenting their gifts.”
Some extra special inside scoop - this year’s Mary is Emily Burnett Blessinger, who grew up in the church and came up through the Christmas Alive ranks over the years including elementary angel choir, middle school shepherd, high school senior Angel Gabriel, and after 30 years she will finally be Mary. Itwas well worth the wait because she thinks she got the best baby Jesus ever…her own three-month-old daughter, Josephine! Proud husband and dad, Phil, won’t be in the stable with the girls, but he will be in the audience taking pictures.
Emily shared, “I have a ton of fond memories from Christmas Alive. I remember as a young girl, dreaming about playing the part of Mary. I would leave Christmas alive humming her solo every year. I was so thrilled when they asked my daughter Josephine to play Jesus, and the little girl in me was really jumping up and down when they asked me to play Mary. I’m so excited to be able to share the Christmas Alive tradition as my husband and I start our new family together.”
After the 30-minute performance in the front lawn of the church, there will be a backyard party with free camel rides, a petting zoo, hot dogs, cookies and children's activities.
Christmas on the Boulevard - St. John’s the Divine
St. John the Divine Church
2450 River Oaks Blvd.
Sat., Dec. 14, 4-7 p.m.
Begin your holiday festivities with Christmas on the Boulevard: a fun, free, family-friendly Christmas celebration. First, experience a Live Nativity at 4 p.m. complete with interactive dialog and live animals.
Communication Director Andrea Meier recalled, “Last year, even the camel got into the spirit and started dancing back and forth in anticipation! Another unique feature is that the nativity is scripted with actors – so those who visit can be immersed in the Christmas story as they travel through the different areas.”
Following the live nativity, guests can enjoy a concert of seasonal favorites starting at 5 p.m. with the St. John the Divine Chorale and Youth Choir, ROCO Musicians, and the Three Sopranos, an elegant trio of Houston’s finest followed by a reception with refreshments and live jazz. The concert also features a special children’s area with a livestream of the concert, a Christmas craft, and room to move. This is just the event to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit.
Memorial Drive United Methodist Church
Tues., Dec. 17, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30 p.m. (MDUMC suggests coming to the Friendship Court 10 minutes before each performance)
12955 Memorial Dr.
Admission: Performance is free, but $5 “camel tax” donation is appreciated.
Come experience the story of the birth of Jesus Christ at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church’s fun, family-friendly live nativity presented by Memorial Drive’s 7th-12th grade students. There are three performances (5:30, 6 and 6:30 p.m.) complete with your favorite Christmas songs and, of course, very cute live animals (baby goats, a donkey… and yes, a camel!)
Mark Bogart, Director of Youth Ministry, spilled the beans of some not-so-perfect nativity moments. “Over the years, we’ve had a few technical difficulties, occasional weather issues, and some hilarious costumes. Several years ago, I suppose the camel got tired (or bored) and decided to lie down during the middle of a performance. Thankfully, his move looked more like an old man slowly sliding into a warm bath. No one was hurt. It was hysterical. That combined with the annual guarantee of at least one baby goat deciding to hilariously baaaaaaaa along with the Christmas carols makes our Live Nativity the can’t-miss event of the season!”
Editor’s Note: For more on this topic, see Karen Vine Fuller’s 2018 story Confessions of a Live Nativity Shepherd: Memories from 'Christmas Alive' and see more holiday happenings this season here.
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