Published 12:00 am Monday, December 23, 2013

KANNAPOLIS – Saturday’s warm weather may not have fit most people’s idea of Christmas.
But what mattered most, according to the organizers of Nativity Night, was that people came out to experience the meaning of the Christmas season.
With a live nativity scene depicting baby Jesus in the manger, as well as activities and games, the seventh annual event drew crowds to Village Park.
This was the seventh year of the celebration and the third year that the event has been held at the downtown park, organizer Steve Shatner said.
Prior to that, a live nativity scene was held in the parking lot of the Compass Agency on South Main Street for four years, Shatner said.
With the ongoing holiday celebration, including Christmas lights and activities throughout the park, Shatner said dedicating a night to the story of Jesus’ birth helps focus people’s attention on “the reason for the season.”
“The train and Santa are all nice,” Shatner said, referring to other park attractions, “but we’re really focusing on the nativity.”
On a small hill overlooking the lawn, costumed members of Crosspointe Baptist Church portrayed the shepherds, the three wise men, the Virgin Mary and Joseph and the Christ child.
Sheep and a cow grazed peacefully nearby as onlookers snapped photos, or sat nearby to enjoy music from the Crosspointe praise team.
Shatner said this is the second year that the church has assisted with the live nativity and events.
“We have Christmas carols, celebrating the birth of Christ,” said church member Marcia Heckman, “and we have a lot of information about the true meaning of Christmas.”
Music Director Charles Morrow and church members sang a mix of traditional carols and contemporary music.
Several times throughout the night, the music gave way to a live reading of the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke, read by a wooden hearth set up on the lawn for that purpose.
“It’s a great way to get away from the commercial side of Christmas,” said Terry Walter, as he sat in the storyteller’s chair, waiting for time for the reading to begin.
Senior Pastor Leon Hawks said it’s difficult even for a minister to stay fully focused on Christ during the Christmas season, with non-stop buying and merchandising even swallowing up Thanksgiving.
“There’s been such an onslaught of commercialism, and trying to take Christ away from Christmas,” Hawks said.
“We want people to understand that the reason we celebrate Christmas is the birth of Emmanuel, God with us,” Hawks said.
Nearby, a table offered information on the celebration of Christmas, as well as free Bibles for those who wanted one.
Bean-bag toss, a craft station and other activities were open to kids, while others took advantage of pony rides and a petting farm.
The event drew not only Kannapolis residents, but people from outside the area who heard it advertised on Christian radio.
Martin and Mary Ann Sherry brought their family from Fort Mill, S.C. to attend Nativity Night.
Not only did the Christmas decorations and lights make them feel nostalgic, but the events were a good way to have family time with the kids, Mary Ann Sherry said.
Hawks, meanwhile, said he hoped the timing of this last Saturday before Christmas — only four days before Christmas Day — would help keep the story of Jesus’ birth in people’s minds as the holiday approached.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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