Over 160 villagers from Birchencliffe will tell the story of the nativity on Christmas Eve - with a little help from their local community.
It is the eighth Outdoor Nativity - and this year they will be joined by the Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs. This annual event has attracted more people each year since it began in 2007 and this Christmas is expecting the highest total yet as local people gather to hear the Christmas story told in a real stable.
Revd Mary Railton-Crowder, Vicar of Birchencliffe, says, “Despite the bitter cold, it is always a very special time. It is a wonderful way for the church to bring people of all ages in our community together to share the joy and the hope of Christmas.”
Revd Mary adds, “The numbers increase every year and we are very grateful for the support of local police and community support officers who always seem to enjoy themselves.”
Everyone will gather at St Philip’s Church, where many children ('and an increasing number of adults') will be dressed as characters from the Nativity, before people begin to make their way to the stable in Cliffe Farm.
Led by a star, the group will sing carols and hear the Nativity story from a group of volunteers dressed as shepherds, angels and kings during the walk to the farm, and the children will knock on doors en-route asking if there is ‘any room’.
More people often join the group as they walk and they are encouraged by good wishes ('and sweets and biscuits from various householders').
Revd Mary says, “It is always very cold – sometimes it’s almost too cold! We've walked in frost, snow, fog and pouring rain but the weather never seems to deter anyone.
“We are very grateful to the local residents who let us knock on their doors and to Mrs Jane Carter for allowing us to use her yard and stable.”
The children finally knock on the door of the farmhouse and the Inn keeper will lead them to the stable where the children will carefully place a doll to represent Jesus in the real manger. They will then hear the final part of the story of Jesus’ birth before standing in the yard to pray and sing ‘Oh Come all ye faithful’.
Revd Mary says, “The fact that the stable is so cold, bare and sometimes a bit smelly adds to the telling of the story.
She continues, “It’s always special but there's one year I will never forget – just as we were singing the final carol in the farm yard a small child pointed to the sky and shouted very loudly, ‘Look, it’s the star!’. We all looked up and saw the brightest of lights in the sky directly over the stable.
“It was probably a planet, but to the children it really was the star of Bethlehem – an amazing moment! People still talk about it.”
The Outdoor Nativity will be taking place twice on Christmas Eve due to its popularity. The first group will leave at St Philip’s Church at 14:00, and the second group will leave at 16:00.