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Friendly Beasts Visit Croton Falls Nativity Scene

CROTON FALLS, N.Y. - Just as promised, a living nativity scene materialized at the Croton Falls Community Church at the 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday when goats, sheep and a pony trotted down the center aisle, accompanied by chickens, ducks and rabbits swaddled in the arms of biblically costumed children.

A few of the animal guests tended to prefer a place in the pews and needed to be reminded they were en route to the altar. One of them “had a mishap,” as Pastor Tim Wagner noted. The church has been recreating a live nativity for 19 years. 

Kris Smith, the church’s organist and member for 25 years, said, “I was born and raised on a farm in Iowa. This makes me homesick for Iowa.” Parishioner Melissa Reiss agreed. “I grew up on a dairy farm in the Adirondacks.”

As Pastor Wagner had predicted, there was indeed “a cacophony of humans and animals.” The congregation continued to sing enthusiastically.

In his sermon, Pastor Wagner explained that the purpose of the living nativity is to demonstrate what the scene at the stable in Bethlehem was actually like when the infant Jesus was born. “There are not many here who would choose to give birth in a stable. Those animals were not plastic.” 

Wagner continued, “We tend to forget the parts that make us uncomfortable.” He said the modern Christmas card or artificial nativity scene “sanitizes” the birth. “When the animals come, we put ourselves in the story. The animals join us in the true joy of Christmas that won’t be found under the tree. It will be in your heart.”

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