Those that drive through Highway 63 this weekend may encounter a festive scene featuring a mix of live animals, angels and churchgoers dressed in biblical attire.
According to pastor Chad Middlebrooks, the display stems from his congregation’s desire to celebrate the Christmas holiday as members of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church enacted a live nativity scene Saturday, Dec. 17.
For those unaware of Middlebrooks, the police officer turned preacher initially moved to the Lake Martin area in 1995 and served in law enforcement for a decade before being called to the church full-time.
“I was a marine police officer for close to 10 years on Lake Martin. I loved it and thought I would retire doing it, but God called me to the ministry. I fought Him tooth and nail, but He knew what He was doing,” Middlebrooks said.
After spending time pastoring in Wetumpka and Andalusia, Middlebrooks returned to minister at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, a congregation of around 70 people, but enthusiastic, according to Middlebrooks.
“It's a great little church. We're just a little country church. but the people are excited, and it's starting to grow, and the reason we're growing is because we're reaching out to our community. We have to go outside the church walls and minister to our community,” he said.
Middlebrooks explained that the live nativity scene bore out from his congregation’s excitement to spread the gospel across Tallapoosa County.
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“We want people to understand what the real meaning of Christmas is all about. We get so busy and caught up with other stuff that sometimes the world forgets,” he said.
For Middlebrooks, he believes the Bible verse John 3:16 encapsulates the theme of the Christmas season.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life,,” Middlebrooks said. “So that's the reason we're doing this, we want people to understand what Christmas is about and show our community that we love them and care for them.”
In an effort to embody that spirit, one of the church’s statutes typically displayed during Easter will accompany the famous retelling of the Bethlehem story.
“We'll have all the biblical characters: the three wise men, shepherds, angels and Mary and Joseph and a baby. But we're also going to have Jesus on the cross because that's the whole reason,” he said. “Jesus came, born as a baby, because He knew that He had to step down out of heaven and pay for our sins to have a relationship with us.”
The church’s live nativity scene will be hosted Saturday from 6-8 p.m. Passerbyers are welcome to come into the parking lot during the event and take pictures.