COLUMBIA, SC — ONLINE
How do you prepare two lively 3-month-olds – delightful, ruddy-faced twins who alternately coo and cry and inevitably need a change of diaper – for starring roles as the sweet, slumbering Baby Jesus?
SHHH! Very, very quietly.
Ellie and Harper Beacham, twin daughters of Lindsey and Jimmy Beacham, will make their debut this weekend as First Baptist Church presents its 25th annual Columbia Christmas pageant. Since they will come on stage in the finale Nativity scene, their parents plan to spend a lot of their time backstage making sure that one or the other of the twins is in dreamland by the time they take their turn in the Holy Family tableau.
“It’s kind of a game-time decision,” Jimmy Beacham chuckled.
Both babies have been through rehearsals without a hitch. “If I had to guess, I would say Harper would be going on Friday night,” Lindsey Beacham said.
Through four performances, Friday through Sunday, the twins will provide the focal point of the Nativity, along with their parents, who play Mary and Joseph. Their performance comes at the conclusion of a lively, two-hour performance that will feature sacred music as well as popular holiday favorites. The choir of 250 voices will join the church orchestra and hundreds of children and volunteers for the production “Christmas is ... .”
This weekend will be the scene of many holiday productions around the Midlands. Another iconic Midlands production, Shandon Baptist’s Singing Christmas Tree, also opens Friday, for five performances.
The Singing Christmas Tree will feature a 30-foot tree with 55,000 lights, 130 singers and a 50-member orchestra. The show includes a dramatic presentation of the Christmas story accentuated by dance ensembles, said Jenna Dingus, a spokeswoman for Shandon Baptist. Like First Baptist’s, Shandon’s production, now in its 23rd year, is a regular stop for those who enjoy Christmas music and the re-telling of the ancient Christmas story.
For the Beacham family, longtime members of First Baptist and veterans of the Christmas production, the December event is a family affair. Jimmy’s brother Mark plays a Roman soldier in the crucifixion scene, which plays out on stage above the Nativity scene. The brothers’ mother, Miriam Beacham, will sing a duet to the Baby Jesus, and their father, Jimmy, is in the production booth.
Even if the babies are fussy, Lindsey and Jimmy Beacham say they will make sure each takes a turn on stage.
“It will mean a lot to them down the road, and it means a lot to us,” Jimmy Beacham, a salesman, said. “It definitely drives home the story when you look at your baby and you think about God’s sacrifice.”
“Up until you have children, the emotion of it, you don’t understand until you are a mother,” said Lindsey Beacham, a dance teacher. “I can’t imagine how Mary felt, traveling on a donkey all that way, and what she went through.”
The babies, born Ellie Hazel and Harper Elizabeth on Sept. 7, were ideal candidates for the Baby Jesus, in part because they came early, at 33½ weeks, and had spent time in the bustling neo-intensive care unit at Lexington Medical Center. They parents say both are used to lights and noise because of their time in the hospital.
At birth, Ellie weighed 4 pounds, 14 ounces, while Harper weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces. Now Ellie is a robust 10 pounds and Harper is clocking in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces. They still love to be swaddled, so being wrapped up in the Baby Jesus garments suits them fine.
Both babies have managed to nod off through rehearsals, despite the rousing chorus and orchestral pieces and the cracking of Mark’s whip during a scene in which the Roman soldiers prod the adult Jesus toward the cross. While the parents and one twin are on stage, Emily Irish, a family friend, takes care of the tiny understudy backstage.
They’ll wait until the last minute to make the decision about which twin is featured in each performance.
“They say it’s OK if they cry,” Jimmy Beacham said. “But it is kind of nerve-racking when you are up on stage.”