It’s good to be children — sometimes

Charles Dickens once said, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.”

Last Sunday evening I felt as though I had returned to my childhood. Even the anticipation was as I remember it.

In the porch of the home on the farm of Dwight and Sara Ollman, southwest of Thompson, N.D., Carla Krueger helped me slip a brilliantly white robe over my winter coat. Next she tied a rope sash around my waist and then handed me a ring of golden garland that would be my halo. Thankfully my halo slipped only once as I portrayed an angel in the live Nativity the people of Holmes United Methodist Church presented. There were no words for me to recite – just songs to sing as part of an angel choir.

Every moment was pure, sacred and serene pleasure.

The participants were as enthusiastic as could be even though many of them have done this for 25 years. For all the world, the Ollman’s barn and horse arena became what we picture as the stable where Jesus was born.

There were two curly haired sheep in one pen and a young brown Angus calf in another. The calf was as persistent at proclaiming its message as was the Rev. Mark Ellingson, who served Holmes for 27 years and now is Altru Hospital’s Hospice chaplain. Several times, as Mark was reading the Christmas story from Luke 2, that calf bawled its heart out as if saying, “you tell ‘em brother.”

At one point, Mark paused, turned to the calf and said, “I AM telling them!”

 

 

 

 

 

Of all the angels, there was only one with wings and I was told to follow her to know what to do. That was Joan Bahr who has been Gabriel ever since the pageant’s inception. Joan, also a wonderful song leader, had a few takers sing with her as she led, “I Am So Glad,” in Norwegian. My daughter-in-law, Jyl, was a very happy one of those.

The Angel Gabriel warming up with a cup of hot apple cider.

The pageant began with Curt Krueger and Joan reading prophecies that tell of the coming of the Messiah from the books of Isaiah and Micah. Joan and Donna Roeder then sang a most beautiful and harmonic song titled, “No Room.”

As Mark began the Christmas story, Mary (Emily Olson) and Joseph (Matt Bahr) appeared before the people atop horses. They dismounted when they reached the stable and placed their doll baby in the manger. It was all so real – from the angels singing from within the stable, to the shepherds coming from afar and the Wisemen bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

When everyone was in place, Kevin Wold, sang a verse of “Mary Did You Know,” And Joan, looking over Mary’s shoulder and into the eyes of the baby sang, “Five Little Fingers.”

The songs everyone joined in on were: What Child Is This, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Angels We Have Heard on High, We Three Kings, Silent Night.

It was wonderful to meet the Rev. Sheri Fadley, pastor at Holmes. She played an angel, too, and I’m thinking that role comes pretty naturally to her.

Others taking part, some of whom I met, were: Tasha Beine, Alicia Fadley, Shelly Wold, Patty Beine, Jason Hayes, Kevin Wold, Wayne Roeder, Betty Ellingson, Makenzie Schwartz, Carla Krueger, Danine Lenz, Jim Yates, Blaine Melfald, Zac Crawford, Seth Russell, David Russell, Jacob Russell, Sara Ollman and Paul Lenz.

Paul is the one who brought the idea of a Live Nativity to his fellow church members a quarter of a century ago.

I witnessed deep conviction and dedication among these people. I do believe their celebration of Christmas would not be complete without this gift to their visitors.

Incidentally, they’re thinking nearly 1,000 people came to see the Live Nativity when it was presented twice last Saturday evening and twice last Sunday evening. I noticed Sunday that some people who saw it at 6 p.m. stayed for the second presentation at 7 p.m.

It was a very cold night and I thank Danine for graciously sharing her hand warmers with me. They were like pieces of warm toast in my gloves.

Usually it’s grandparents who go to their grandchildren’s Christmas programs. This time the tables were turned and it was especially heartwarming to hear, “Hi Grandma,” and to turn to see, amongst the hay and straw, my granddaughters, Amelia and Grace, who had come from the Twin Cities. It was when we three hugged that my halo slipped.

As I mentioned, it was a pretty chilly night. A couple days later, Grace, 14, wrote on her Facebook page: Never go to a live nativity when it’s 1 degree . . . unless your grandma is an angel. Who knew I was of angel descent?

People of Holmes United Methodist – thank you so much for inviting me to be an angel in your Live Nativity. How refreshing it was to feel like a child again!

Until Soon

Going live to the stable

Theirs is a gift that keeps on giving – year after year after year.

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

Until Soon