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He’s portrayed everyone from Jesus to Joseph

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He’s portrayed everyone from Jesus to Joseph

Volunteer Orion Hoover watches the first cars line up on Friday.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/


POSTED December 14, 2013 12:04 a.m.

James Baugh was born into the Sequoia Heights Baptist Church’s Living Nativity.

Quite literally.

The 23-year-old, who played Joseph in the manger scene Friday night, has played just about every character possible in the more than two decades that he’s been involved with his family.

He was baby Jesus when he was still a baby. He’s been a Wiseman. He’s been a Roman soldier. He’s been Jesus on the cross.

And through it all, Baugh has developed a deep understanding of what the drive-thru nativity scenes provide to not only the community at-large, but the church community that has been such an integral part of his life.

“It’s an opportunity to provide a seasonal outreach and ministry and remind people that there’s a bigger meaning behind Christmas,” Baugh said. “I think that it’s a fun for families to come down and enjoy this year-after-year, and its fun for us to be involved with it.

“I literally grew up as a part of this, and this event is our church’s identity – it’s who we are to the community and the residents that make all of this possible by coming down.”

On the other side of the parking lot, Senior Pastor Mark Mahaffie stood next to a popup tent where church volunteers distributed CDs that were preloaded with the story of Christ from the prophesy to his crucifixion.

In the past the actors – it takes about 90 of them each of the two nights to keep the operation humming – had to vocalize their parts for the cars that came through, but the CDs have made it much easier not only for the church volunteers that play roles but for the church to craft a uniform message that everybody that comes through can hear.

Changing technology, however, has Mahaffie a little bit worried.

More and more people, he said, are relying on their smartphones and MP3 players for audio while behind the wheel. And to serve the people that don’t have a CD player installed, he had to go to Wal-Mart and buy as many cassette tapes as possible to go with players that the church already had. He was only able to find 14.

“That’s something that we’re going to have to look into for next year,” Mahaffie said with a chuckle. “But overall, this is something that’s very, very meaningful and fun for the community and fun for us. The message is important, and I think that people are able to go away from here getting what it is that they came for.

“When you’re talking about having 80 or 90 people working together in one night, it’s important that you’re able to enjoy each other because then you’re able to pass that on. And that’s what we want.”

Sandra Gonzalez was driving by with her husband Roberto and their 6-year-old Ohani when she noticed the cars pulling into the parking lot and made a right turn onto Wawona and got in line.

It was a first for the family, and they were kind of taken aback by the amount of work that went into retelling the story that’s so important for Christians when December rolls around.

“I think that it’s awesome. The dedication and the drive to put something like this together and provide for the community is amazing,” she said. “Just to see that kind of devotion says a lot about what these people have in their heart.”

The drive-thru nativity continues tonight at Sequoia Heights Baptist Church – located at the corner of Union Road and Wawona Street – from 6 to 9 p.m. To get there from Highway 99 take the 120 Bypass towards San Francisco and take the Union Road exit. Turn right, and the church will be several block up on the right hand side.

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