While it is true that many Floridians do observe the Christmas holiday by setting up futuristic manger scenes in their front yards, and others feel compelled to drive over their neighbor's decorations before shooting them with large caliber handguns, not all Floridians respond in this manner.
Some church-going folks throw themselves into producing touching, heartfelt pageants celebrating the birth of the Christ child. I know I spent more than one evening in my childhood standing on stage in church auditoriums, dressed in desert robes made of bedsheets.
The church-going folks at the First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale mount a Christmas pageant that costs $1.3 million to produce, has a cast of 600+, and runs 2 & 1/2 hours.
According to this article from the Associated Press, linked on the church's website:
"Fireworks explode through the air, women dressed as angels "fly" to herald Jesus' birth and camels make their way to the nativity scene with the three kings.
At the First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale's $1.3 million Christmas Pageant _ more Broadway extravaganza than local production _ hundreds of men, women and children dressed as ancient residents of Jerusalem dance, skip and sing their way into the aisles. There is simulated snow, a horse-pulled sleigh, a kickline of dancers and a jazzed-up version of "Joy To The World."
The article goes on to describe the auditions, computerized lighting systems and the "controlled pyrotechnics at the end of the first act." In the second act
"...a bloodied Jesus carries his own cross to the stage, where he is beaten by Roman guards and then crucified. He is then shown lying inside what looks like a tomb and then resurrects, ascending over the stage using cables."
In recent years the role of Jesus has been played by Les Chevelydayoff, who portrays Jesus at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida. In this article, Chevelydayoff talks about the responsibility of portraying Jesus:
"It’s just a whirlwind of emotions when kids come up to you and people wave at you from their cars. You’re constantly being watched."I'll leave the last word to Senior Pastor Larry Thompson, who is the pageant's executive producer. In this ABC News story, Thompson says
"...It’s been an eye opener for me," Chevelydayoff said. Easily identifiable with long hair, penetrating eyes and a beard, he said he is very conscious of making sure he doesn’t reject children or even adults who want his attention. Off stage during the interview, he breaks away slightly to pat a child on the head, to smile and nod at another toddler staring over his mother’s back."I have no idea how He did it," he said of Jesus Christ. "The eyes of the world are always watching."
''I think Jesus would come to the show [and say], 'Authentically you got it right.'"