Angels, shepherds and a trio of wise men will visit Ruskin Saturday as the Ruskin United Methodist Church youth group publicly re-creates Jesus’ birth in a manger.
More than a dozen teens will participate in this eighth annual, free event, which attracted more than 400 people to its two live performances last year. The cast will also include a stable of live sheep, goats and a donkey.
Parents are encouraged to bring along their cameras to photograph their kids with the performers and animals provided by Noah’s Ark of Odessa. There will be free hot chocolate, coffee, cookies and snacks and candy canes for the kids.
Members of the church choir will sing during the narration of the Nativity story delivered by the church’s youth pastor, Rev. Hal Jeffery. Performances will be at 6 and 7 p.m.
“We do this for several reasons,” Jeffery said. “We honor the season with the physical display of the Nativity; we provide our young people with a way to draw closer to our Lord; and we give back to the community, which I believe is especially important for young folks to learn.”
Jeffrey said what’s remarkable is that its the church’s teenagers who actually initiate the effort, which is an inspiration to members of the mostly senior congregation.
“Our kids really want to do this, and our adults wholeheartedly support them,” he said, adding the kids start building the manger and corral at 7 a.m. the morning of the event. Apollo Rentals provides the scaffolding for the angels to stand on, and the wood is brought out of storage. Then new palm fronds and hay are placed.
“We wouldn’t want baby Jesus to lay in old hay,” Jeffrey said, smiling.
This year’s cast members include Kyle, Matt and Zack Williamson; Cole Alter, Alaina Rinaldi and Vaughan Siegrest; Shyanne Taylor; Emily Anderson, Alex and Brian Ruiz and Brandon Cusic; John Nichols and Lauren Rodriguez. The teens won’t know until 4 p.m. Saturday which roles they will play.
“It’s absolutely lovely, said Faye Richardson of Ruskin, a longtime church member who’s seen every Nativity the teens have produced. “I get such a kick out watching the kids, especially the angels. After all I know all of them – out of costume.
“It’s not a professional performance,” she continued. “It’s just our young folks doing their thing.”
Ruskin United Methodist Church is at 105 4th Ave. N.W., one block west of U.S. 41 North behind SunTrust Bank. The Rev. Richard Nussel is pastor.
For more information, call (813) 645-1241.