By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
It was a light from a different kind, and from a different direction, that directed the wise men Sunday night in Hays.
Lightning from the south drove members of the Luth-Terian Youth Group inside First Presbyterian Church, shortening the teenagers' presentation of the Living Nativity.
However, they seemed to take it all in stride, giddy as they talked about the happenings of the evening, as well as the previous night.
For the third straight year, the group portrayed the Living Nativity outdoors on consecutive nights, first at the Trinity Lutheran Church on Saturday night, then at First Presbyterian on Sunday.
They giggled while saying how difficult it is sometimes to remain serious when "things happen" -- things such as a when a misbehaving "sheep" stretched his shepherd to the length of his leash.
"He was not on board for being paraded around," Hannah Norris said of the sheep, portrayed by her dog named Gus, a black schnoodle -- a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle.
But, youth group leader Megan Hopp said, the Living Nativity has become the youth group's favorite activity, and a lot of adult members of both congregations also participate -- whether it be by baking cookies for the visitors, building props or loaning animals.
There even was a donkey this year, which brought more laughter from the youngsters afterward as they drank hot chocolate and ate cookies.
"He smelled so bad," said Brecken Leeds, shaking his head with an emphasis on the word "so."
"He really did smell like a donkey," Andi Rogowski said.
Hopp said the event has brought the group close together, and they talk all year about what characters they want to portray for the Living Nativity.
"I've always been a wise man," said Leeds, who played Joseph this year. "So I wanted to see what it would be like to play Joseph."
Norris said the favorite character for the girls is the angel, which she has portrayed other years so conceded the part to fellow group members this year.
Besides, Norris had to be a shepherd to herd her sheep.
"He wasn't thrilled at all," Norris said of Gus, who seemed more content indoors, getting attention -- and a pat on the head -- from anyone he nuzzled up to.
Despite going just an hour Sunday, the portrayal brought the same amount of people as Saturday night, with approximately 100 people viewing the scene each night.
"I heard comments it was even better than last year," said Anna Towns, First Presbyterian's administrative assistant.
Hopp said while goodwill offerings they receive during the event help fund mission trips for the youth group, that's not the main reason the youngsters want to keep doing it.
"We don't do it for the money," she said. "They really want to share the true meaning of Christmas."
"And," she added, "it's definitely something we will keep doing. They have their parts figured out from the first time we meet (for the new school year) in August."