Pastor Greg Hazelrig stands at an empty stable at Baker's Chapel United Methodist Church on a cold, blustery afternoon.
Hazlerig, who has served as the historic church's pastor for the past four and a half years, said in just a few hours the stable would be filled with costumed actors portraying the Christ child, Mary and Joseph, along with the Wise Men, shepherds and the angel which hovers gloriously over the entire spectacle.
"We'll have camels, sheep and donkeys, too," said Hazelrig, a Brighton, Tenn. native.
The Living Nativity Scene at Baker's Chapel UMC is for this coming Saturday night only, Dec. 16. The church is located at 1965 Johnston Road off Malone Road and the nativity is from 5 until 8 p.m. Dec. 16 only.
It's a tradition that Hazelrig and his wife Michelle have come to embrace after relocating to Baker's Chapel UMC, after an appointment at another church. Hazelrig also serves as pastor of Cockrum United Methodist Church.
Hazelrig said he believes the Lord led him to Baker's Chapel after a journey that led him to pastor several other churches.
Hazelrig said he answered the call to preach in 1999 after an unhappy stint in the business world.
"My life was miserable," Hazelrig said. "I had to get out. Most of the people that I know tell they fought answering the call to the ministry for a long time. God waited until I made my life so miserable that I answered. I was struggling with the question, 'Is this God or something else? I was sitting in the parking lot eating my lunch. We were having revival that week. My wife Michelle told me she was ready to answer God's call as well. The song they were playing is 'Where He Leads Me I will Follow," Hazelrig said, citing a Charles Wesley hymn.
Hazelrig said he, too, was ready to answer God's call but there was still an obstacle which he had to overcome.
"I didn't speak well before others," Hazelrig said. "I grew up very timid and shy. I literally would hyperventilate before I had to speak."
Gradually, Hazelrig realized that he was just the messenger. It was God, and more specifically, the Holy Spirit which was speaking through him.
"The first time I preached was at Mineral Wells UMC," Hazelrig said. "It was at a night service. I was nervous until I began speaking."
Hazelrig said the Holy Spirit is at work in other ways as well.
"We have several ongoing missions here," added Hazelrig of a homeless ministry and a canned goods ministry as well as a continued outreach to the greater community which includes Memphis.
What began as a trip with another couple to the Union Avenue Mission in Memphis to deliver several pizzas has grown to include a regular scheduled visit to preach the gospel and deliver between 15 to 18 pizzas weekly.
"We also have what we call our 'Can and a Hand' ministry which goes to the Walls Food Bank," Hazelrig said.
"God has called me here," Hazelrig added. "I'm glad I answered the call."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.