Members of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Buffalo did their best to re-create the classic creche scene of the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The only problem Sunday evening? The weather might have been too nice.
Eleven-month-old Rylie Parry, playing the role of baby Jesus in the living Nativity scene presented on the front lawn of the church, was even able to go hatless for a few minutes.
Rylie stayed composed for a few seconds under the bright lights, then did what babies often do. She cried.
“She screamed her head off. That’s what makes it authentic,” said Nicole Parry, who was able to calm her daughter quickly once a doll was placed in the manger, and Rylie was handed over to her mom.
Hoping to impart the true meaning of the Christmas season, churches try to be as authentic as possible in their live Nativity scenes.
Salem Evangelical Lutheran brought in farm animals, including a donkey, sheep and llama, to give the look and feel of the earliest moments of Jesus’ arrival on earth.
Participants in the portrayal wore period costumes, brought in bales of hay and built a lean-to.
The church on McLellan Circle in South Buffalo was one of several in the area Sunday offering Nativity scenes in an effort to spread the Christmas spirit.
“It’s one thing to read about it in a book or hear about it in a song, but it’s another to see it live,” said the Rev. John L. Pingel, pastor, who was dressed as a townsperson of Bethlehem, the believed place of Jesus’ birth.
Church member and youth leader Darlene LaPenna organized the production.
LaPenna hopes the effort was a way to help reverse a slide in reverence for the season.
“I’m really upset with the fact that Christ is being taken out of Christmas,” she said.
For a few hours Sunday, in a few areas of Western New York, there was no shopping, no Santa Claus and no Rudolph.
Living Nativity scenes also were held at Church of the Nativity in the Town of Tonawanda and Ebenezer United Church of Christ in West Seneca.
The live Nativity portrayal at Church of the Nativity has become a tradition for Evelyn Cabantog and her children, Benjamin, 8, who is a shepherd in the portrayal, and Amelia, 3.
She said the event provides a nice get-away from all of the talk of shopping and presents and other holiday trappings.
“It brings out the true meaning of Christmas for our family,” said Cabantog. “You feel like you’re there. It’s just a moment away from reality.”
The churches don’t know what kind of weather to expect, but they forge ahead anyway.
The Rev. Ruth Snyder, co-pastor of Church of the Nativity, said she had never experienced a living Nativity before arriving at the church about five years ago.
The first one she participated in included cold, snow and blustery winds – not quite a blizzard, but close.
“It was just awful,” she said.
But the experiences of the live Nativity portrayals have given her new perspective on the whole narrative of Jesus’ birth.
“You get the sense that the little romantic picture we have of the Nativity was exactly that – a romantic picture,” she said.
The reality, she said, was probably harsher and a little unpredictable – not unlike the farms animals trucked in to Living Nativity displays to help tell the story of Jesus’ birth.