For the past 24, the people of Holmes United Methodist Church, southwest of Thompson, N.D., have freely given a very special present to thousands of people at Christmastime. It’s wrapped up in the form of a Live Nativity complete with hay in the manger, chewing cuds and strains of whinnying drifting through the evening air.
This weekend marks the 25th year.
Holmes’ signature event, a reenactment of what took place in a lowly stable in the town of Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born, begins at 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday night (Dec. 22-23) in the red barn and horse arena on the farm of Dwight and Sara Ollman.
Directions in a minute!
While the Christmas story is read, songs are sung and the characters move to their places to worship the tiny newborn king. The program is repeated at least once each evening, perhaps more times if necessary, in order to accommodate all the people who travel to this little patch of Holy Ground.
I am extremely honored to have been invited by these parishioners to take part in this year’s Live Nativity. The Rev. Mark Elllingson, a former pastor who served Holmes for 27 years, said I could be whatever I wanted – a shepherd, a Wiseman, an angel. I decided I’d be an angel because I definitely need practice at being nice.
Besides all the humans taking part, there will be sheep and cows and horses taking it all in. There won’t be a real baby in the manger, though, because it’s too cold for that.
Holmes member, Paul Lenz, who as a child saw and was greatly moved by a live nativity, was the one who suggested his church begin this tradition. I’m told this year Paul will be a mounted Wiseman. How appropriate for he was very wise to have started this so long ago.
Directions to the Ollman farm: From Thompson go nine miles west on North Dakota Highway 15. Follow Highway 15 as it curves south for two miles. Continue on County Road 13 south for another three miles. Watch for signs posted along the way. The address to plug into your GPS is: 221 22nd St. N.E., Reynolds, N.D. Be sure to call (701) 847-2720 or (218) 317-2898 if you have questions.
Since this is the 25th year of the Live Nativity, Holmes members have made jerseys, sweatshirts and mugs to mark the anniversary of the event. They’ve also planned sleigh rides, hot apple cider and a bonfire we can cuddle up to.
Speaking of “cuddle,” the Rev. Sheri Fadley, now serving Holmes, said I should definitely wear my Cuddle Duds.
And you should wear yours.
As I was wrapping up this writing, a beautiful song came on the radio. It’s “Manger Throne,” written by Julie Miller and recorded by Mac Powell and Third Day.
I already know that this is what I’ll be singing on my way home from the Live Nativity:
What kind of King would leave His throne
In Heaven to make this earth His home?
While men seek fame and great renown
In lowliness our King comes down
Jesus, Jesus, precious one
How we thank You that You’ve come
Jesus, Jesus, precious one
A manger throne for God’s own son