THE lights dimmed and the room fell silent. The Nativity Play was about to begin.
A Catholic tradition that has been done over and over again since 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi, inspired by his trip to Bethlehem, staged a celebratory Nativity scene to remind the world of the significance of the birth of Christ. Now, I was about to witness this play for the very first time on Dec. 29, 2023, at Sacred Heart Center.
Minutes before the play was about to begin, there was clamor everywhere. Guests bustle around to get to their seats. Ecstatic children running around and their guardians trying to keep them together. But there was an undeniable buzz and excitement in the air as people were excited to see the greatest story ever told come to life on stage.
Organized and produced by members of the neocatechumenal community from San Roque Parish, San Nicolas Parish and Sacred Heart Parish, the nativity reenactment is a story they knew like the back of their hands. The Nativity Reenactment has long been an annual tradition for the community. Just as St. Francis of Assisi intended the tradition to serve as a reminder to the community and to those who came to witness it, the true meaning of Christmas, removed from the commercialization and glamor of it all.
Then, the show was about to start and the greatest story ever told unfolded on stage. The play started like a prayer as the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the Son of God. The play continued and it reached the part where music of joy and prayer filled the air as the nativity scene came together on stage, and the Holy Family assembled to celebrate the birth of the Messiah.
A King born in a manger; wrapped in swaddling cloth and laid on hay; surrounded by farm animals and shrouded by the dark of night. On stage, the Holy Family gathered together, and above them was a bright and warmly lit Christmas Star, symbolizing the significance of the birth of Christ as God the Father was watching over them.
Then the lights dimmed again but the parol shined brightly over the Holy Family — an image that spoke of simplicity and utmost humility during the most joyous time of the year.
Witnessing my first Nativity Play, I am reminded that to its core, Christmas has never been about extravagance and an overflowing amount of gifts. It was all about this moment in time when Christ was born on a manger surrounded by His parents.
This is a story that has been told over and over again. Void of any mystery or thrill, it is a story that has been passed on for millennia and continues to be told through traditions such as this to remind us of how simple and humbling Christmas should be.
The world waits for another 11 months to celebrate Christmas again but witnessing my first Nativity Play has forever altered my perspective on not only the season but also as I go on to live my life, slowly reconnecting with my faith.
As the curtains close and another year unfolds, let us all be reminded of what Christmas is truly all about — love, togetherness, and the birth of a King who was clothed in utmost humility and simplicity.