The Living Christmas Tree pageant at Grace Polaris Church has existed since 1987 and is still going strong.
With the very tall Christmas trees filled with wonderful carolers; two, real-life angel portrayers hanging high above the stage who come to life when Jesus returns from the dead; real camels, donkeys, sheep and horses; and an unimaginable amount of young people taking part in the skit by singing, dancing and portraying Biblical characters, the three-act program is an amazing performance to behold.
We took it in on the afternoon of Dec. 10 and were amazed all over again at its beauty and of the many tour buses that arrive at the front door with senior citizens, the handicapped, youth and adults.
Along with all of son Jay's family, a brand new member of the family portrayed the newborn Jesus for several performances.
This was Kynnlie Morrow, the 5-week-old cousin of Amber, Jessie and Matthew. With the large attendance at Grace church, there are always young couples with babies who can "play" the part.
"How would you spend Christmas if you knew it was the last Christmas you ever had?" was the premise of the skit with 8-year-old Cody, played by Carson Graham, as the main character in the performance.
He talks mainly with his Nana, who termed herself, "the Nana-Nator," and explained it this way: "When you get to be my age, you get to make up your own words."
Actually, a note from school asking for non-holiday-type cookies to celebrate the "Winter Party" brought a discussion, with Cody wondering who took the Christ out of Christmas.
Later that night, he has a bad dream that Christmas might go away forever and under the cloud of this being his last Christmas, Cody travels back in a dream to witness the very first Christmas.
Although, it was just a dream that he touched the baby Jesus on his sweet, fuzzy head and laid his beloved Optimus Prime toy at the feet of the newborn King, just as the three Wise Men had done with gold, frankincense and myrrh, he awakens to realize that Christmas isn't just here today, it's for yesterday, today and forever.
It was wonderful to see Amber singing and dancing to the song, "It's Christmas Again." We were so worried about her for a time. Youth bounce back quickly, and prayers helped more than anything.
Jessie was a beautiful ballerina in the "Star of Wonder Medley." I see those two almost grown-up girls and marvel at how they have come along. Jay and Margaret deserve much credit on how they raised them to be good Christians.
Matthew and Jay were a father-and-son team of wandering shepherds who came to visit baby Jesus at the manger. Both led ram sheep, Robert and Ralph by name, down to the stage. I was introduced to the pair when Matthew took me outside to their pen.
For the first of the 12 performances, Robert would have tried the patience of Job. He managed to butt Matthew while on stage and went galloping up the aisle as they were leaving. On another occasion, Robert left a little puddle on the stage that Matthew had to walk through, barefoot, no less.
Margaret was caretaker of each and every baby Jesus, before and after his many appearances on stage. There were different babies on several occasions, and it seems that the young Jesus never chose to cry on stage.
Margaret also had excellent seats for us to watch the performance. There is a wide spot in the aisles, created for wheelchairs but since there were none at this performance, we were seated there.
This was one of the turning spots for the camels bearing the Wise Men, the donkey who carried a pregnant and in labor Mary, a horse who carried a king and a four-human litter carrying a rich man.
We had been warned to keep our feet under the seat as the parade came by. But I had stuffed my camera case under my side and discovered I had no room to tuck my feet back. As I was seated on the end, I merely swung my legs up onto the seat and got a few broad smiles from those riding the animals and looking down on me as they marched along.
I got to see Toby the camel again. We had a brief encounter when I paid $7 to ride him around the church grounds. At that time the camel leader told me his name was Toby and the furry creature turned around to recognize me when I repeated his name.
The Biblical costumes for the performances are spectacular. There are some of bright silks and satins, some of plain homespun and the headpieces were breathtakingly beautiful or simple homespun.
As is told by Pastor Mike Yoder in the souvenir photo book, "We present 'Living Christmas Trees," but actually it is the story of the living Savior who desired to make an impact on your life."
This Christmas, there will be many in the military spending it with their families due to the end of a long war that took more than 4,487 lives.
Seeing surprise homecomings on television was a joy to behold. One such homecoming was held in Smithfield on Dec. 14. Captain Jason Lambright enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18 and has served through three global wars on terrorism in the past 10 years.
He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-05; Operation Enduring Freedom from 2008-09; and in Afghanistan from January through December.
During this time, he lived and fought with the Afghanistan Army Unit, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 209th ANA Corp Light Infantry.
Seems like a big title but Jason had a big job operating with 11 other U.S. Army members and 800 Afghanistan soldiers in the mountains and learning to talk their language.
When asked how he knew the good Afghanistan members from the bad, he replied, "You don't."
"We worked and operated to engage hostile elements, going out to take on the 'bad guys,'" he said.
Jason met his wife, Willemyn, while stationed in Holland. They married and reside in Smithfield with their two daughters, Sarah, 11, and Hester, 7.
"I have been in war or in training about half of the girls' Christmas lives. And I missed eight of 12 of our wedding anniversaries," he explained.
He is now discharged but will likely go back to the reserves. In the meantime, he intends to spend plenty of time with the family and enjoy them.
A welcome home dinner was held with about 40 members of the family and friends present. There were hugs and kisses all around and a sigh of relief that is being heard all around the country as other men and women arrive home again a well.
At this blessed season, may you know His peace and tranquillity and may you feel His joy this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas to you all. I have so enjoyed getting to know you throughout the year.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is the food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)