The Living Nativity

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#214: “The Living Nativity”
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Romans 13:1-7

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.

7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

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The Living Nativity

“The Living Nativity” is episode #214 of the Adventures in Odyssey audio series. It was written by Marshal Younger, and originally aired on December 12, 1992.


A nativity display at Odyssey's city hall sparks a controversy over the “separation of church and state.”



When the nativity display on City Hall grounds is vandalized and destroyed, Whit and the gang come up with a wonderful solution. They decide to do a “living nativity.” It will be complete with narration, costumes, Connie as the virgin Mary, and Eugene as a donkey. Everyone in town thinks it is a smashing success, everyone, that is, except Bart and Rodney Rathbone.

The display is near King's Appliance Cave and is taking customers away from the Electric Palace. Bart decides the living nativity must go! He calls the mayor and files a formal protest, upon which Mayor Bill Jenkins has no choice but to act. The police shut down the display.

Whit comes up with a solution, though: Instead of celebrating just Christmas, use the city hall lawn to celebrate all of the cultural events that take place in December as well, such as Hanukkah. It isn’t the perfect solution, but it is one that’s legal and one that satisfies almost everybody.

This plot section is too short and should be expanded. »

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Bart and Rodney want the living nativity stopped?
  2. Is it illegal to have a nativity display on city hall property?
    • Why or why not?
  3. Do you think Whit’s solution was a good one?
    • Explain.


Heard in episode

Role Voice Actor
Bart Rathbone Walker Edmiston
Bill Jenkins Phil Lollar
Connie Kendall Katie Leigh
Eugene Meltsner Will Ryan
Jimmy Barclay David Griffin
John Whittaker Hal Smith
Mr. King Bob Luttrell
Lucy Cunningham-Schultz Genni Long
Oscar Peterson Joseph Cammaroto
Patrick O'Ryan Will Ryan
Rodney Rathbone Steve Burns

Mentioned in episode

Character Mentioned By
Donna Barclay Jimmy Barclay
Agatha Rathbone Bart Rathbone


  • The controversial nature of this story launched an hour-long debate among the actors in the studio about the First Amendment and the true meaning of “separation of church and state.” While the discussion was healthy, it sure ate up a lot of studio time!
  • Those responsible for the vandalism of the Nativity Scene in this episode have never been identified.
  • In this episode Whit makes a brief mention of the nativity scene display he was creating in #135: “Back to Bethlehem, Part 1”.
  • Bill Jenkins asks Eugene in this episode whether Eugene is wearing an Eeyore costume. Eugene's actor Will Ryan had previously voiced Rabbit in the Disney short Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore.
  • Listen carefully: after Lucy finishes addressing the crowd of kids about casting for the nativity scene, the background dialogue includes an archive recording of Jimmy Barclay and Oscar Peterson congratulating Donna Barclay from the episode #95: “The Very Best of Friends”.
  • This episode was Marshal Younger's writing debut.



Lucy Cunningham-Schultz: We also have six shepherds and four wise men. So we'll be giving Jesus gold, frankincense, myrrh, and a pen-and-pencil set!

Bart Rathbone: There's something going on around here, and I am going to find out what it is.
Rodney Rathbone: Meaning you're gonna make me find out what it is.
Bart Rathbone: Exact-a-mundo!

Eugene Meltsner: You really should read more history.
Connie Kendall: How'd you like to be history, Eugene?

Lucy Cunningham-Schultz: But what would Mr. Rathbone have against our nativity scene?
Eugene Meltsner: Indeed! It's doubtful he knows what the Constitution is, let alone what it says!

Bart Rathbone: Are you cheatin' again?
Rodney Rathbone: No, pop! This time I took your king fair and square.
Bart Rathbone: You know I don't play that way. And don't call me "pop!"

Eugene Meltsner: Would I not be of more service, not to mention completely typecast to say one of the wise men?
Connie Kendall: You told me the beard makes you itch.
Eugene Meltsner: What do you think this donkey costume is going to do?