St. Matthew's moving toward Bethlehem


Special to the Advocate 

St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Madison is showing the Christian Christmas story as people drive to work or to the mall during the hectic holiday season.

Passers-by may see the figures of Joseph and Mary riding a donkey on the edge of Old Canton Road during the first week of December. It’s the beginning of the story that will unfold every week through the liturgical church season of Christmas — the four Sundays of Advent, the 12 Days of Christmas and Epiphany on Jan. 6. 

“Worship shouldn’t be confined to a sanctuary; we’ve just taken it out into the yard for everyone to see. We’re showing a pretty simple story with some spectacular characters and events. It’s the Christian Christmas story, and it moves at a different pace than the retail frenzy,” says Marie Owen, chair of worship at St. Matthew’s.  

“The figures resemble stained-glass. Windows of stained-glass were originally designed to tell a story to early church members who couldn’t read,” says Rev. Rod Borders, senior pastor at St. Matthew’s.  

The figures were designed and drawn by Owen and Alicia Zeski of Madison. Ben McKinney of Lowe’s in Madison mixed the 27 colors of paint and provided expertise for this out-of-the-ordinary project. St. Matthew’s members Johnny Miller, Dennis Stewart and Bob Seichter of Madison cut out the figures that have a three-dimensional quality. The members of St. Matthew’s were invited to paint the life-sized paint-by-number characters. 

Each Sunday during Advent, different Sunday school classes, service groups and families in the church will move Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and sheep a little closer to the stable at the front door of the church. On Christmas Eve, the figure of the Christ Child will arrive. The community is invited to walk through the stable to the candlelight Holy Communion services offered by St. Matthew’s at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  

But the story doesn’t end there. Christmas Day the figures of the wise men will appear at the edge of Old Canton Road and will move across the lawn to the stable during the 12 Days of Christmas.  

On Jan. 6, the Epiphany, the wise men will find the baby and kneel to present their gifts. 

Every Sunday from Dec. 3 until Jan. 6 the story will be different, and all are invited to drive by and see the story or come in and hear the Christian Christmas story.