February 26, 2010

Living nativity brings birth of holiday to life

KELLEY BOUCHARD

— By

click image to enlarge

Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Saturday, December 19, 2009...Live Nativity scene at the Park Avenue Church of God in Portland. Jeree Cumbo, playing Mary, holds the baby Jesus as the three Magi look on.

click image to enlarge

Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer... Saturday, December 19, 2009...Live Nativity scene at the Park Avenue Church of God in Portland. 22 month old Francis Merrifield listens to carolers sings Christmas songs at the Nativity scene.

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Jerree and Michael Cumbo were serious about playing Mary and Joseph in a living nativity that was presented Saturday evening in front of the Park Avenue Church of God.

Before heading out into the cold, Jerree Cumbo described the journey that Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago.

''The camel ride was rough, with me being pregnant, but we made it,'' Cumbo said, smiling warmly. ''We are bearing God's child, so he led the way.''

The Yarmouth couple were among several church members who performed a nativity scene from 5 to 7 p.m. as traffic rolled by on Park Avenue and pedestrians stopped in for a closer look. They will repeat the scene today at the same time.

''This is what Christmas is all about,'' said Pastor Frank Siciliano. ''The living nativity gets us outside the walls of the church and allows us to bear witness that Jesus was born and that he was the Messiah.''

Performers in the nativity include members of two other congregations that also meet at the Park Avenue church: the Philadelphia Church, whose members hail from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries, and the International Baptist Church, whose members come from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru, Puerto Rico and other Hispanic countries.

Danilo Sanchez, a Dominican immigrant who lives in Portland, also performed the role of Joseph. Following several cold days, the outdoor temperature had risen to a balmy 30 degrees. Still, it was cold enough to warrant having a few people play each role so they could switch off regularly and warm up in the basement church hall.

''It's to bring to the people the real thing that happened and show the meaning of having a savior,'' said Sanchez, explaining his reason for being part of the living nativity. ''It's not that people forget. There's a lot to distract them. Our faith isn't tradition. It's something we live day to day.''

Sarah Mugeni of Portland was one of several African immigrants who sang Christmas carols and other religious songs in French, English, Kinyarwanda and Swahili.

''We love Jesus and we know for sure that the greatest mission he gave us was to preach the Gospel,'' Mugeni said. ''That's why we are here. He is the savior.''

Wearing a gleaming crown and an opulent robe, Rick Harmon of Old Orchard Beach was one of the wise men. Before the program started, Harmon led the performers in prayer, asking for the Lord's guidance in presenting the nativity scene well and help in withstanding the cold.

''As the people of Portland pass by,'' Harmon said, ''we pray that they see the real meaning of Christmas.''

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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