Nativity to come to life in Cranbury

By Maria Prato-Gaines, Staff Writer
   CRANBURY — A few biblical figures will make their appearance on Main Street on Sunday for Cranbury’s biennial Nativity pageant, a re-enactment of the first Christmas, compliments of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury.
   The event starts with the parishioners traveling down Main Street, first as angels, then shepherds, followed by Joseph leading Mary, complete with donkey and finally, the trailing wise men, said Virginia Swanagan, a pageant volunteer.
   A procession will begin at 3:30 p.m. on 82 N. Main St., stop for a moment at the Cranbury Inn, then end at the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury.
   The parishioners will be in full costume, which are tailored to their roles, with the shepherds more humbly dressed and the wise men sporting their regal garb, she said.
   ”We get such a big enjoyment seeing our own parishioners dressed up in costume,” Ms. Swanagan said. “There’s somewhat the feeling of honor to be a part of this.”
   Some of the parishioners are going into full character, Ms. Swanagan said.
   ”There’s a new little twist,” she said. “Some of the gentlemen are growing their own biblical beards.”
   Ms. Swanagan said to replicate the Nativity story, Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter takes them to the Cranbury Inn, but find that there is no room there. The procession will then cross the street into the safe haven of First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury, where they will be welcomed for the “night.”
   The church is hoping for a big turnout and even encourages spectators to interact with the procession, she said.
   ”We love it when people gather on the sidewalk,” she said. “And sometimes they even follow in the procession.
   After the innkeeper’s rejection, Mary and Joseph make their way into the Presbyterian Church and phase two of the pageant begins — the service, she said.
   At around 4 p.m., Ms. Swanagan said, the entire Nativity entourage arranges itself in the church and the appropriate Bible passages are read.
   ”I think people enjoy the visual presentation,” Ms. Swanagan said. “There’s the feeling of Christmas.”
   Music is a huge part of it and the church band and four choirs will all be there to perform.
   Ms. Swanagan said that this year the church is presenting a wide range of its musical talent as it features the brass choir, bell choir, children’s choir, chorale choir and youth band.
   Immediately following the service the public is invited to Fellowship Hall for refreshments, she said.
   The event is free and will be held weather permitting, she said.
   For additional information contact the First Presbyterian Church’s Brenda Kirkenir at 609-395-0897.