More than 600 people filled the bleachers for the first two nights of free performances of the Living Nativity Christmas pageant at the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
Most of the guests were local residents or from the Central Texas area, but some had come from as far away as Fort Worth. Many said they were regulars, and the annual visit to the lights and the show was an important part of their families' Christmas.
"We know we always get a spiritual boost from doing the show," said Pastor Judy Baskin, "but it's even more gratifying to hear others say that the message touches them, too."
Other than one donkey who made a break for short-lived freedom, the cast and crew reported no problems with the first two nights. Baby Jesus got cranky during one performance, but calmed down when he got settled into mom's arms.
This weekend's shows -- the last for the year -- may include celestial special effects. The Geminid meteor shower will peak Thursday night, but still should be spraying the sky with meteors after sunset Friday and Saturday. The constellation from which they appear will rise in the east, behind the stable, right in front of the audience.
Pastor Baskin noted that when the visitors go inside after the show for cookies and hot chocolate, they find a display of more than 100 nativity scenes set up in the activities building.
The Living Nativity closes for the year after this weekend's shows Friday and Saturday nights. The performances are at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, and 8:30, with free refreshments in between. The show is at the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City, on north Avenue E, between Main and Pecan Streets.
For more information, call JoAnn in the church office, at 868-7414.