Photo supplied by Rosemary Moore
Article by Administrative Assistant Jean Day
On December 4th Zion UMC will host the Living Nativity at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Members of Zion will portray the people who were in the stable on that first Christmas, and others from Zion will help in support roles such as coordinating, directing traffic, etc. We are excited about our part in the Living Nativity. This year especially, its meaning has become even more special for us.
We know that Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus were in temporary quarters – the more comfortable accommodations were not available to them. But they had everything they needed. The innkeeper found a place for them to stay, and they were not alone. Shepherds from the countryside, Magi from the East, and angels from on high surrounded them with support, encouragement, and gifts. Most important of all, they had the love and grace of God, who was watching over them.
The people of Zion can relate to that. Many of you know that on June 6, 2017, our church’s interior was destroyed by fire. Only the outer walls are still standing, so we have been in temporary quarters since then. We worship in a donated hall on Sundays and our offices are leased in another building. But like Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, we have everything we need. The community here, other churches far and wide, the North District, and the Desert SW Conference have been generous with support and gifts. And most important of all, we know that God’s love and grace have been with us all the way.
For Zion member Johnny Hampton, this will be his 5th Christmas to appear as a Wise Man at the Living Nativity. “When I put on that costume,” he says, “it’s like magic. I’m pretending to give gifts to the Christ Child, but it feels like I really am giving a gift to the baby Jesus. It’s like I become that Wise Man. It feels real. We really are worshiping Him. The whole thing is amazing, including the response from the crowd.”
Zion’s Trustees Chair, Charlie Blake, remembers that 5 years ago Rev. Dennis Hutson, then pastor of Advent UMC, needed to clear a storage area that was full of lumber. When he found out that Zion’s Trustees could do carpentry, he asked them to build the Christmas scene for the Living Nativity that would be used by all the participating churches. “We built it because he needed our help. After we completed it the first year, the men found joy in helping our Methodist churches with a little bit of brotherhood and fellowship.” Zion’s Trustees have built the set for the Living Nativity since then. “This year’s scene is bigger and better than ever before,” says Charlie. “God has blessed us with certain skills, and it really feels so good to help each other.”
So the stable and the manger have special meaning for us, and the Living Nativity is a wonderful way for us to express our joy for Jesus’ birth and also for God’s presence through our difficult time. Our God has fulfilled His promise that He will always be with us. He has given us joy and hope, and He has strengthened us through it all. Our church building has burned, but Zion’s faith is strong. Even when we are in temporary quarters, we know that we are home for Christmas, experiencing the love and grace of God as we rejoice in His goodness.