Not everyone can be a shepherd — someone has to tend to the baby Jesus.
Others need to be magi visiting the Christ child in the manger or the angels watching over the stable. And at least one needs to Joseph, the guardian who stands by mother Mary.
Such was the dilemma facing Jameson Frank, who originally wanted to be a shepherd like nearly all of his peers at St. Margaret of Cortona Church. But with the vacant role of Joseph leaving a hole in the otherwise completed live Nativity scene outside the Rotterdam Junction sanctuary, the 9-year-old willingly stepped up to play the part.
“I’d said I’d do it because I wouldn’t mind,” he said with a shrug.
Jameson joined 9-year-old Tesa Juron, who played Mary and cradled the baby Jesus in a makeshift stable late Monday afternoon during St. Margaret’s first live Nativity scene. Flanking them were several angels, a trio of reluctant kings, a gang of exuberant shepherds, a docile sheep and an over-anxious goat that occasionally dished out playful head butts.
Amid all this, there was no safe way to include a real baby playing Jesus — an idea organizers had quickly discarded — so a doll was used instead.
Even with a chill in the air, the children happily played out the creche dressed in homemade costumes tailored by members of the church. Dozens of parishioners gathered around to watch, softly singing songs from the Gospel as the children assembled.
Organizer Theresa Kaczor said the elementary school-aged children were thrilled to be acting out the scene, even if the importance of their respective roles sometimes got lost in translation. All of the boys and even some of the girls wanted to be shepherds for some reason, which none of them could clearly articulate.
“One little boy said he wanted to be a cow,” Kaczor said.
But only Badger and Goat Girl got the farm animal roles. The Mabee Farm sheep and goat weathering the winter at the Kaczor’s farm paid a visit to the church to bring a livestock element to the Nativity scene.
Granted, Goat Girl’s element was a little bit too live at times. At one point, the playful creature tried to scale the small wooden stable.
Still, the scene went off without a hitch. Afterward, the same group performed again during St. Margaret’s annual children’s service.
Some of them swapped costumes so that others could get a chance playing the popular shepherd role. Samantha Perry, 8, gleefully shed her angel wings for the shepherd’s head mantle.
She played an angel during the children’s service last year and wanted to try something different. But she didn’t mind any role in the Nativity since they all seemed special.
“You’re really in a scene that was important,” she beamed.
That’s precisely the point of the live Nativity, explained Kay Skelly, St. Margaret’s director of religious education. In a sense, she said, breathing life into a scene can sometimes bring it new meaning for the children.
“The story becomes live for them,” she said. “It’s not just something they read in a book.”