By Sue Sprenkle

The setting was simple — a stable, some hay bales, and a few animals — but the story hundreds gathered in rural Cullison, Kan., to hear was powerful: Jesus was born to be your Savior.

Surrounded by animals softly lowing, Steve Taylor opened his Bible and read the story of Jesus’ birth. There was no glitz or glamor. Instead, a group of children sat at the pastor’s feet captivated with the story read from Matthew and Luke. Their older siblings, parents, grandparents and neighbors sat on hay bales listening too.

The annual One Night at the Stable, hosted by First Southern Baptist Church of Pratt, Kan., on Sunday, Dec. 16, transported attendees back to the night thousands of years ago when Jesus was born in humble surroundings — similar to this old draft-horse barn.

“There’s kind of a transformation that happens once you pass through the barn door,” Taylor explained. “Christmas loses the commercialization, the glitz, the glamor and goes back to the basic and simple. We slow down and smell the smells, hear the sounds and see what Christ experienced the night he was born.

“It just doesn’t get any simpler than that,” he added.

The idea for One Night at the Stable began years ago when Taylor and his family returned to New Mexico from Zimbabwe where they had served as International Mission Board missionaries. The couple wanted to remind their children that Christmas wasn’t about the commercialized version represented around them. So they asked a rancher in the church if they could borrow a stall in his stable for one night. They read the Christmas story as the animals settled into the surrounding stalls for the night.

The next year the rancher’s family joined the Taylors. The third year families from the church joined them for the annual Bible reading. They brought this tradition with them to Pratt six years ago.

Justin Gates, chairman of the deacons at FSBC, Pratt, thought Taylor was “crazy” when he asked about a barn to host a Christmas event that first year. It was the middle of winter in Kansas and cold.

“When he explained One Night at the Stable, it felt like a perfect fit for our church and surrounding community,” Justin said. “We are mostly agriculture based and rural. I knew this was something our neighbors and friends would relate to. It’s a neat way to share the Gospel.”

More than 400 people come each year to Terry Williams’ draft-horse barn just a mile off Kansas Highway 56 to hear the story of Jesus’ birth.

Cindy Gates, Justin’s mother and member of FSBC, Pratt, recalled that one year it snowed 12 inches and churches in the community canceled services. Yet everyone still showed up at the barn to read the Christmas story. The reason, she explained, was that One Night at the Stable went beyond being a Christmas tradition.

“It brings you to the real spirit of Christmas,” she said. “Here you sit in a simple stable reading the Bible. It’s so simple that we can all experience it. That’s kind of like the gospel — it’s so simple that we can all experience it.”

Justin nodded in agreement, adding that this event reaches beyond church walls. “We get people who won’t set foot in church, but they will come to a barn. This [simple setting] is what our community knows and relates to.

“This is what it’s all about,” the Kansas farmer confirmed, “sharing the gospel with our neighbors and friends.”