Christmas tradition given green light

A longtime Christmas tradition will return this year after the Washington City Council Tuesday approved a request from the Marion Avenue Baptist Church to allow its annual live animal Christmas Play.

During the meeting, Marion Avenue Baptist requested the closure of the southeast side of Marion Avenue, in front of the church and the middle parking areas of the block, during the weekend of the performances. John Hays, a member of the congregation, said a tent would be set up by Big Ten Rental from Iowa City from Friday, Dec. 7, through Monday, Dec. 10. The tent will use a weight system to hold it down so there won’t be any damage done to the street surface.

“It is a great honor to open this performance up to the community,” Hays said. “It is a great honor. We want to be a highlight of the City of Washington Christmas season.”

Hays explained the performances draw such a large crowd that this year the church plans to have a tent set up. The council quickly approved the request without any questions.

Entering its 44th year, the play draws people from throughout the country to the church to watch the live performance of the Nativity. Each year the church tries to change the play a little, offering new effects and a new storyline. Most years about 30 animals are used in the play and about 250 actors, all of whom are volunteers from the congregation.

In a previous interview, The Rev. Joseph Brown said the Christmas story is told as close to the biblical story as possible, including the shepherds, the angel appearing to Mary, the journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus Christ. The story follows Jesus throughout his life and through the crucifixion.

“It is a story of hope. It is a story of peace. It is a story of joy,” Brown said. “Christmas can be a sad time for people, but we want this to be a bright spot in their Christmas holiday. Its more than just doing another play.”

Since the play has begun, it has become a national tradition for many. People have come from many states away to specifically see the play.