HERMISTON - The pageant unfolds as the angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and convinces her to give birth to baby Jesus.

The scene with Mary is new to the pageant this year. The living nativity, presented by the First United Methodist Church youth group, offers the community an opportunity to witness the story of Christmas. The church has hosted the pageant off and on for more than 20 years in a variety of formats. Two years ago the youth group decided to take on the project.

This year the youth group made a few changes to enhance the event.

"We have added a scene where the angel talks to Mary," said youth group Sedona Cassevah.

In the past, boards with scripture were set beside each scene. Tour guides will replace the boards and tell the Christmas story and read the scripture as they lead groups past each scene, she said.

The production has grown from one silent scene to four separate scenes beginning with Mary's room. The tour guides will lead groups to the Inn, the shepherds tending their sheep and to the manager with the kings.

Don Waters and his grandsons pitched in to help make some needed changes this year to the Inn. Waters, with the help of Brett Waters, 14, and Nick Waters, 17, refurbished the front of the weathered barn by adding eaves, a new sign and lighted windows for a more realistic scene.

Daniel Bolen, 19, a lifetime member of the congregation who was home from college, helped construct the pen for the sheep and set up the other scenes. He has been a part of the living nativity all his life. He first appeared 19 years ago as the baby Jesus.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 687 unloaded and set up a trailer full of straw, filled luminary containers and did whatever else was needed to set the stage for the nativity. The troop is sponsored by the church and, under the direction of troop master Doug Smith, help the youth group set up and tear down the sets for the nativity as a thanks for the sponsorship.

It takes almost everyone in the church to pull off a production of this magnitude. Thirty-eight characters appear in the scenes each night. That does not include the support staff, costume designers, greeters, refreshment servers and guides, Cassevah said.

"People can walk through," Cassevah said. "If the weather is bad people can view the scenes from the church windows."

The living nativity will be presented from 6-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the First United Methodist Church, 191 E. Gladys. Refreshments will be served.

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Carol Marcum is the Community Editor in the East Oregonian's Hermiston Bureau. She can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-303) or by e-mail at cmarcum@eastoregonian.com.

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