By AMANDA KIMBLE
MORGAN MILL (December 8, 2016) – The true meaning of Christmas is often lost in gift giving, tree trimming and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But, an annual Erath County tradition shines a light on the true reason for the season and it’s again set to take center stage.
The thirteenth annual Morgan Mill Live Nativity Pageant will be held at the Morgan Mill Community Center at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 17.
Much like St. Francis Assisi, who was credited with the first-ever Nativity scene more than 800 years ago, members of the community’s United Methodist Church and other residents invite spectators from across the area celebrate the birth of Christ. Last year, an estimated 300 individuals flocked to the event and the community anticipates a comparable number of guests this year.
The turnout has grown since the first annual event and so has the production. Organizer Sandy Sandstrom Morgan Mill’s first nativity included a few characters portrayed by community members wearing borrowed costumes. They stood together at the tabernacle on U.S. Highway 281, silently portraying the birth of Jesus Christ to passing motorists.
The pageant has grown to include almost 20 costumed characters a choral performance, narration and coordinated gestures.
The event is still held in an outdoor setting, but it has long since outgrown the tabernacle. An overhead covering does provide some protection from the elements, and Sandstrom said the production has never been canceled due to rain or cold weather.
“It looks like we could have some of that weather this year, so everyone should bundle up and bring a blanket,” she said. “We have seating for plenty of people.”
They also provide a true Christmas scene that spectators have said is truly moving.
And, most people who have experienced the pageant say the costumes are the most spectacular part of the performance. Sandstrom said costumes for the first annual event were borrowed from Tarleton State University. They were beautiful, sparkling gowns, but they were not meant for an outdoor setting or the chill of Christmastime.
So, Sandstrom, who came to the area from Dallas a little more than a decade ago, put her dress-making background to work, creating elaborate costumes for the growing cast. She started with Mary, Joseph, The Wise Men and the herald angel.
“Then one year, two weeks prior to the pageant, my husband told me the story (of the birth of Jesus Christ and the manger scene) speaks of King Herod,” she recalled.
In no time, Sandstrom crafted a robe fitting a king, and she continued to add a costume a year until adding a Centurion guard about two years ago.
“When you make costumes, you look at it and keeping adding something else because it is never enough,” she said, describing the detail work put into each costumes. “You add a little more trim or more bangles – you always need a little something else.”
Sandstrom described the herald angel as a “huge presence,” with a gown that measures eight feet long and an actor standing on a platform that is three feet high.
“She really is something to see,” she said. “The way I the herald angel should be.”
This year the praise team, a five-person choir group, which Sandstrom said sounds like 20 beautifully blended voices will provide a masterful sound for the live Nativity.
At the conclusion of the pageant, the community will gather inside for food and fellowship.
“We have about 30 crockpots of soup, sandwiches, cookies and hot cocoa for everyone to share,” Sandstrom said.