Living Nativity

Living Nativity

Today’s blog post is by Theresa Pierce. Theresa is a contributor to our book Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families, where Theresa writes about living with her brother.

My favorite Christmas memory was being part of a living nativity scene at Spilman Baptist Church in Kinston, North Carolina. The living nativity of Spilman Baptist Church was epic! Everyone in town rode slowly by and many families filled the churchyard to take a closer look. That is what they told us, but to tell you the truth, I was always in the spotlight and could not see the record crowds. Every year, for as long as I could remember, I was an angel, literally.

An Angel in the Living Nativity

I was an angel next to Mary, the mother of Jesus. One year, I remember trying not to laugh as the donkey kept trying to eat my momma’s scarf while my dad swatted his efforts. They tried not to laugh. Eventually, they promoted me to the roof, where we crawled precarious ladders to position ourselves as angels who appeared to hover over the lowly manger. When the Halleluiah melody belted out, it was our angelic responsibility to raise our arms for the entire chorus. It felt like an eternity. Our arms ached, but we did not dare to let them drop. We took our duty seriously. Even our Sunday School teachers reminded us that our ministry mattered. And it did!

Divine Intervention

            I was fortunate to grow up across the street from the church, what I believe to be divine intervention. My best friend and I got to watch the church men build the nativity set from the ground up. We watched farmers deliver sheep and a live donkey. I must admit there was slight disdain on our part because the portrayal of Christ’s birth took up the space where we usually played kickball for two weeks. We were children with limited space for our daily play. I know God understood our childlike innocence.

            We worked in thirty-minute shifts as angels and shepherds. When our hands felt like they might freeze, we changed places with opposing actors. Just when our hands thawed, they offered us hot chocolate and cookies. The chocolate burned our tongues, but the marshmallows had to be eaten before they lost their foam. We traded burned tongues for frozen hands for about three hours and loved every minute of it.

            I vividly remember how the wise men rotated bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The shepherds knelt with their sheep. My big brother wore a bathrobe and headdress. The manger was in the spotlight, and I remember worshipping in my own childlike way. “And He shall reign forever and ever.” At such an impressionable age, it was a privilege to portray one of the angels who witnessed the birth of Jesus.

About Theresa:

Theresa Parker Pierce lives in Historic Salisbury, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has thirty-five years of experience teaching reading and history. She has a Master’s degree in education and is National Board-certified. two-time Rowan Salisbury Teacher of the Year, Theresa enjoys storytelling about her childhood in eastern North Carolina and the history of life in Rowan County.

Her manuscript, Up Dunn’s Mountain, won first place for Young Adult Literature at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in 2020. The sequel, Miss Clairmont’s Christmas, won third place for Novellas in 2022. Most recently, her poem Mrs. Claus Bakes was published in Christmas Spirit. The sales of this collection will benefit Samaritan’s Purse.

Theresa is a member of Word Weavers International, Blue Ridge Christian Writers, Room at the Table, and the 540 Club. She writes monthly for Senior Savvy magazine. She shares her volunteer time between the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer and the Rowan Museum in Salisbury.

The Coat, the First Couple, and the Lamb

The Coat, the First Couple, and the Lamb

I feel as though it’s been a while since I have written on my blog. I hope you had a great Christmas and I pray blessings on your new year.

This past Sunday I was talking to friends after church and one commented on my husband’s leather coat. She said it reminded her of the ’70s. I laughed and told her it was that old. My husband throws nothing away. But he has taken very good care of this coat so it does not look old at all.

Somehow our conversation drifted to Adam and Eve. My friend commented about God making clothes to cover Adam and Eve and the blood spilled to make those clothes.

According to Hebrew tradition[i], God did not just kill any animal to clothe the first couple, He killed the serpent who deceived them. It was this skin that’s believed to be the clothes Adam and Eve wore. This garment, passed down through generations, was eventually worn by John the Baptist.

God doesn’t make clothes that wear out.

Speaking of clothes, when the garments of the priests wore out, the priests tore them and used them for other things because they could throw none of them away. God made these clothes holy.

These pieces of cloth were used to wrap around the scrolls of the Torah, or Law to protect them from dirt and wear and tear.

The priests used other strips of the cloth for torch wicks within the Temple.

Yet, they used others for the sacrificial lambs. There was a group of shepherds known as Levitical shepherds who worked for the high priest. They lived in Bethlehem and raised sheep for the Temple sacrifices.

As new lambs were born, the shepherds swaddled them with cloth from the old priestly garments to protect them from cuts and bare spots in their wool.

They needed to be perfect.

The night Yeshua was born, it was these shepherds who the angels visited with the Good News. They were told there would be a sign, a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths….

Hebrew tradition shows that Mary would have wrapped Yeshua in the same priestly cloths as the sacrificial lambs. That was the sign these shepherds understood.

God gave another sign or clue way back in Genesis. This sign is easy for us to miss– but the Jewish people who heard the story of Abraham and Isaac didn’t miss it.

Abraham was told by God to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him.

Genesis 22:1-2 ESV: After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 

After getting everything ready for the sacrifice, Isaac asked his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Genesis 22:7-8 ESV.

But, did God provide a lamb? Genesis 22:13-14 tells us.

“And Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide.’”

Does it matter that God provided a ram instead of a lamb? Yes, it does.

The rabbis read these stories aloud to the Jewish people, so they recognized that God provided a ram instead of a lamb. Since God did not provide the lamb in this situation, the Jewish people waited for Him to provide the Lamb.

That is why in John 1:29, John’s announcement is very important!

“The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” ESV

Only John called Yeshua a Lamb. He was the expected Lamb and prophet the Jewish people were waiting for.

Let me know your thoughts.

1 I have learned much from a man named Rev. Aaron Eime, who
is Deacon and Director of Research and Education at Christ
Church, Jerusalem
and studied at the Hebrew University. Originally
from Australia, he is a dedicated Bible teacher exploring the
Hebraic Roots of the Christian Faith.

I believe he speaks and/or reads Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin. (You
can google his name and watch different videos recorded of his speaking
engagements here in the US and Canada.) I’ve seen him a few times when he’s come to the Cleveland area.

Most of what he teaches comes from the Jewish tradition, meaning some of
these facts and beliefs were recorded by Jewish scribes and historians in
sources other than the Bible.

While every New Testament is the same around the world, the Old
Testament is not. As the disciples of Yeshua spread the Gospel, they also left
some of their own writings where they served. As a result there are other books included in other country’s Bibles, some places have sixteen additional Old Testament books.