’3 wise guys’ and a casserole? It’s part of Tennessee church’s annual drive-thru Nativity scene

’3 wise guys’ and a casserole? It’s part of Tennessee church’s annual drive-thru Nativity scene
A church in Tennessee had an unorthodox view of the Christmas Nativity scene.

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — According to the Bible, wise men brought gold, myrrh and frankincense to the manger that housed the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

The wise men are more practical in Tennessee, where “three wise guys” brought a casserole.

The Holy Family has to eat, right?

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The food is part of the annual drive-thru Nativity scene at the Mountain View Church in Dandridge, where the story of the birth of Jesus is partly traditional but also open to interpretation.

The one-night drive-thru took place Dec. 6, hosted by the 70-member congregation. Christmas is the message, but humor is allowed to creep into the storytelling.

Cars, pickup trucks and SUVs lined up to travel the quarter-mile exhibit at the church, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Each vehicle rolled past eight scenarios that began with shepherds and ends at the manger, the newspaper reported.

Sallie Stidham, the wife of church pastor Rev. Billy Stidham, has been coordinating the event at the eastern Tennessee church for a decade.

“We wanted to do something for our community, to show our community we cared about them,” Sallie Stidham told the News Sentinel. "And also to tell them about the story of the first Christmas and to tell them about who Jesus is.

"Some people will never come to church. They will not come to a church service; they will not come to a cantata. They won't come to a Christmas play, but they can drive through this and not have to get out of their car. It's a little less intimidating I guess."

The stories told are often ad-libbed and incorporates characters who won’t be found in the Bible, the News Sentinel reported. At the Cafe de Bethlehem, costumed workers offered visitors cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows, the newspaper reported.

And casseroles? The church’s wise men seem more like wise guys, whose gifts to the infant include a travel bottle of frankincense, and they carry a casserole in case hunger strikes.

Jon Coppenger, who played one of the Magi characters, pointed to a streetlight and told travelers to follow that star to Bethlehem’s stable, the News Sentinel reported.

Despite the mirth, there is a message. Each car ended its journey at the manger as costumed angels nearby sang Christmas carols.

The setup usually gets a positive response.

“I love it, I’ve got tears in my eyes,” Karen Earley, of Morristown, told the News Sentinel.