Nativity storytelling

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Nativity scenes come in all shapes and sizes but the Christmas season displays represent an important happening – the birth of Jesus.

Paris resident Joan Mattingly has erected a small manager scene featuring Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus in the manager for five years at her home.

“My scene is pretty old and rustic looking. Each year I put it out at Christmas time, and it’s one of the first things you see coming down the road,” said the 90-year-old Mattingly, who lives at the corner of High Street and Sycamore Road.

Not only do Mattingly’s rustic figurines have important Christian symbolism, they also have sentimental meaning.

Her daughter and neighbor, Bobbi Mattingly, erected the upcycled barn wood shelter surrounding the manger.

“We were on the Clinton Road and found someone tearing down an old barn,” said Mattingly. “We drove in and asked for wood for the manger and Bobbi made it specifically for me. We always feel like the manger scene is the most important part of my decorations.”

Mattingly added another favorite decoration in her yard is a large snowman that has been on display for nearly 50 years. It was stolen from her former in-town residence approximately 40 years ago and recovered by the Paris police.

“Both the nativity scene and my snowman are very special,” Mattingly said.

Nearby is a large nativity scene made out of carefully shaped wood that is illuminated by several spotlights in the grassy yard at the Lake Ridge Christian Church.

“Our display is simple but elegant as well with the lights reflecting on it,” said Pastor Nate Alexander. “We carefully chose it trying to show the simpleness of Christmas but make it bright and noticeable as well.”

The modern looking nativity scene is complete with shepherds, sheep and animals, the wise men and even angels near the manger.

He described the scene and said, “Our’s has the full scene. I think there is a lot to the Christmas story. And many different lives were affected by the story of Jesus. So we included them all. The characters in the scene mean different things and represent how Jesus changed their lives as well.”

The church purchased the new nativity for outside display approximately four years ago.

Talking more in depth about the Christmas story, the pastor emphasized the scene is a visual reminder of Jesus’ birth and what that means to the public.

“The nativity scene is a special thing that we can still put in public places,” said Alexander. “The manger scene displays the story in a simple picture to remind us and explain what Christmas is about. It is a very important thing to decorate with.”

The Paris First Church of the Nazarene had a live nativity scene featuring the youth of the church Sunday, Dec. 16.

“After parading down the church aisles, the children re-enacted the nativity scene while reading the scriptures Luke 2 and Matthew,” said Pastor Gary Williamson.

The youth were dressed in costumes representing the wise men, shepherds and angels and sang traditional Christmas carols along with the modern song, “Happy Birthday Jesus.”

Williamson noted the annual program is extremely important to the congregation.

“We want our children to know the story and feel involved in teaching it,” Williamson said. “That helps everyone get back to the basics and how Christmas is not just gifts, trees and presents. The best way to learn is to be a part of it.”

Discussing the importance of the manger scene Williamson emphasized the nativity is a reminder how amazing God is and how he used regular people like shepherds and picked normal people like Mary and Joseph rather than royalty to bring Jesus into the world.

He said the star drew both ordinary people to the manger such as the shepherds and the extraordinary like the wise men in combinations that are not normally expected.

“This is an example of how God used regular people for an amazing story,” said Williamson. “It shows us his love to all people.”