SPRINGFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — Whatever our faith, the holiday season seems to inspire different things in all of us – whether it be a yearning to give and share with others, or an enhanced sense of belonging or fellowship.
Not many places is this more evident than in Springfield, Minnesota — your choice for best live nativity. It’s a show that proves, to best tell the story of Christ’s birth, it takes an entire community.
At 6 p.m. in the small, southwestern Minnesota town of Springfield, it’s less than an hour before showtime, and there’s a lot to be done — animals to wrangle, over 50 costumes to be fitted and guests to be seated.
“The Innkeeper is also the fog machine operator,” one pageant participant explained.
The townsfolk are carrying on a 32-year tradition in telling what many in the production believe to be the most important story ever told.
“We all know this story and what it does to us at Christmastime,” one participant said, her voice breaking. “It’s special for our family.”
To see the attention to detail and the number of people involved, “special” might not be a strong enough word.
But to put on a presentation like this — with the costumes, the set, three sheep, two turtledoves and a donkey — it takes a lot of resources, and that’s where Santa comes in.
That is — the Springfield Area Nativity Theatre Association, whose fundraising efforts go year-round.
“On our SANTA committee, we have at least one or two church reps from every one of the churches,” a Springfield resident said.
Playing the leading role of Joseph is pastor Josh Doty of the United Methodist Church.
“You know, we get people who wouldn’t ordinarily come to a church to hear the story be told, and they get to witness in a fun way,” he said “It’s a unique way to experience the birth of Christ.”
Tonight, his mind is on some other concerns.
“I hope the donkey listens to me!” he said.
It really is an awe-inspiring performance — including real camels. Playing baby Jesus is Springfield’s newest citizen, baby Cain. He stayed in a heated car behind the set until his big moment.
At 83, Edward Meidel is the senior cast member, and has been part of this pageant since its beginning. He only has one Christmas wish.
“Speaking for myself, I think it means a lot to the whole town,” he said. “I just hope I can do it for another few more years, anyway. It doesn’t seem like Christmas if I couldn’t be in the pageant.”
So on this crisp, Silent Night on the Minnesota Prairie, Springfield’s nativity pageant helps to show us why we celebrate Christmas. But they also demonstrate, through their actions, the true message of Christmas — peace and goodwill toward our fellow man.