Nativity-Themed Float Brings Spirit of Christ to Alabama Christmas Parade

Contributed By Wayne Turnbow, Church News contributor

  • 18 December 2018

Caleb and Brittany Gray fill the roles of Mary and Joseph in a live nativity atop the Clanton Branch’s parade float on December 7.  Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.

Article Highlights

  • On December 7, Church members in Alabama handed out more than 2,000 pass-along cards during a local Christmas parade.

CLANTON, ALBAMA

Members of the Clanton Branch, Montgomery Alabama Stake, recently wanted to help people in their area understand that the focus of the Church is on Jesus Christ.

Though their branch has existed for over 40 years, few people in the nearby Bible Belt community seemed to know such a congregation existed or that the Church’s main focus is on Jesus Christ. So branch members decided to raise awareness by entering a float in Clanton’s annual Christmas parade—and despite several setbacks, their float had an even bigger impact than they’d imagined.

Most of the branch members came together to assist with the float’s construction, which was necessary, as the Clanton Branch is a small one. Each member contributed in his or her own way. The children of one member who owns a printing company made decorative banners at no charge; another member supplied plywood, one had chicken wire, one had a trailer, and—perhaps most important for creating a stable scene—one member knew how to build papier-mâché animals. The full-time missionaries even brought a nonmember who wanted to help. The construction took many hours and a few do-overs, as this was the first float the branch had ever made, but the float was finally parade-ready.

On December 7, 2018, the night of the Clanton parade, it began sprinkling before the parade began. Members worried that the evening would be like those of the other two Christmas parades that branch members had planned on participating in—both of which had been cancelled due to inclement weather. So the members offered many prayers asking that the rain be stopped so they could share the message of the gospel and their hard work wouldn’t go to waste. Soon after, the rain completely stopped, and the parade began.

With the Church’s #LightTheWorld intiative in mind, the branch’s committee met several weeks ahead of the parade to discuss ideas for the float’s design, and one theme emerged overall—“simply beautiful and beautifully simple.” A nativity scene was selected to be the focus of the float.

The missionaries and the branch president walked beside the float handing out #LightTheWorld pass-along cards to people along the parade route. The many other parade entries featured themes such as Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa’s workshop, and “Christmas on the islands,” but the Clanton Branch’s float was the only one with a nativity and Christ-centered theme. The live nativity scene exemplified the committee’s original design concept of “simply beautiful and beautifully simple.”

The Clanton Branch members felt truly blessed to be participating in the event. Somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 cards were given out, and the religious message and beauty of the float drew numerous accolades from parade-goers. Several people commented how grateful they were that the parade finally had a float depicting the true meaning of the reason for the parade. Even small children were heard exclaiming as the float came into view, “Look, it’s baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”

Sister Skylar Clifford, Sister Megan Lyon, and Sister Kaylee Holtry distribute pass-along cards along the parade route on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.

Papier-mâché animals adorn a parade float in front of Caleb and Brittany Gray, playing Joseph and Mary, on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.

Because no one in their branch had experience with parade float construction, Clanton Branch members learned to put their float together through trial and error. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.

Caleb and Brittany Gray prepare to play Joseph and Mary in a live nativity as Mary Alan Phillips and Pam Ellmore make final arrangements for the parade on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.

The #LightTheWorld message is displayed on the Clanton Branch’s parade float on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.