Mason County News
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Christmas in the Heart of Texas
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 • Posted December 10, 2008

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie...”

Since the day the Magi set out from their various lands in the East, the question has been posed, “How far is it to Bethlehem?” The answer may lie in the question, “How far are you from Brady, Texas?”

Brady has been the site of a charming tradition for more than 30 years; the live Nativity scene presented by the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I spoke with some members of the congregation after the community Thanksgiving service and heard some charming and amusing stories. One of the ladies informed me she’d been a member of the church for 47 years. She added, “I used to ride the donkey - if that tells you anything.”

A tradition of this many years’ duration is bound to inspire moments that become the stuff of legend, especially when said tradition features live animals. I’m certain there are tales of wee angels who got scared of the dark, shepherds who may have tripped on a rock and muttered a muffled “Dadgummit!” but the stories which prevail are those centered around the donkey.

Anyone who has dealt with animals can attest that even trained ones can be unpredictable. For years the reliable beast of burden was “Old Henry” but one year Henry was either not available or had finally been retired and he was replaced by an animal who turned out to be just a bit skittish.

The first year with this untried donkey, a car went by and the driver blew the horn; Joseph had to pull on the rope and dig in his heels as the donkey took off across the parking lot, with Mary hanging on for dear life! Another donkey story involved an animal who displayed the stereotypical stubbornness common to that branch of the equine family. Said beast had stopped in its tracks, so Joseph tugged the lead and when the donkey finally relented, Mary, in her slippery, shimmery robe, slid off. Fortunately she was uninjured though her pride was somewhat bruised.

We all need a little quiet time to collect our thoughts and let fresh air clear our minds of the hectic frenzy which surrounds us most of the time but especially at Christmas. Come to Brady and be charmed and transported to Bethlehem, two millenia ago.

“Come to Bethlehem and see him whose birth the angels sing...”

The air is chilly as befits the season. Evening has fallen and the moon begins its ascent, casting its soft glow. Angels sing in the distance; it is the cherubic children’s choir. Enter Joseph, leading the weary donkey which bears Mary, his betrothed. They settle into the warmth of the manger and Mary brings forth her first-born son, the Christ Child.

From the East come strangers, kings bearing gifts with which to honor the King of all ages.

And there were in the same country shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night.

Yes, shepherds too come to bow before the holy Infant.

This year the performance night will be Saturday, Dec. 20 from 7-9 p.m. There will be a rehearsal Friday, Dec. 19 during the same hours.

In what the Chamber of Commerce hopes will become a long-standing tradition, the park will be decorated for the enjoyment of the public and will be open from Dec. 6 through the end of the year. Employees of the City of Brady will be responsible for turning the lights on and off and they may rig a sensor but the lights should be on for the evening hours of 6-10 p.m.

Wendy Ellis, community development director of the chamber says this is a combined effort of the county, the City of Brady and the Brady/McCulloch County Chamber of Commerce. In the past few years the kick-off to the “Christmas in the Heart” festivities have been centered around the courthouse. However, with the restoration project taking place, that was not a viable option this year. Traditions have to grow and, as Ms. Ellis stated, “evolve in their own time.” She further commented that there was a lot of potential for growth; the trail could be expanded in coming years and other displays added. “The topography and the geography of the park is vastly different when experienced without the thousands of people who come for the Goat Cook-Off.”

To see the Nativity exit the downtown square at the southeast corner, turning south onto Blackburn Street. The parking lot where the performance is done is between 2nd and 3rd Streets.

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