“The sights, the sounds, the aromas,” said Rainbow Bible Ranch Director Larry Reinhold, as he welcomed nearly 160 people into a tiny barn where a living nativity was played out. Squint a bit and imagine, and you will be transported back to that first Christmas. You will envision the night when Jesus the Savior was born among animals, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a crude manger filled with hay.

The event was held on Friday, December 8 at Lonetree Ranch. This was the 24th year that Rainbow Bible Ranch has held the living nativity in the old barn built by Reinhold’s grandfather.

“How pleased Grandpa Emanuel Reinhold would be to see the barn that he built over 90 years ago filled with animals and people celebrating the Birthday in the barn,” said Reinhold.

The evening was a blustery, windy night and the Cowboy Wisemen, portrayed by Danny and Caleb Reinhold and their friends Jesse Anderson and Tanner Elefson, were unable to light a fire while they rested during their search for the star. But each carload of people, who traveled from afar to see the Birthday in the Barn, saw the young men off to the side as they made their way to Lonetree Ranch.

“Cowboy wisemen is kind of an oxymoron,” said Reinhold of these young men. But he laughed and said he was thankful they were there.

The general crowd was directed to the main hall, where Laura Adrian played Christmas music. The characters portraying the nativity gathered in the barn to prepare. The animals were led in, one by one. Edgar the sheep and a small American Babydoll lamb, as well as a goat, a pony, a horse, and chickens. Belle, the family dog was there and even a young calf born late in the fall surrounded the nativity; just as it was on that first Christmas night.

The baby was Owen Anderson, son of Taylor and Abby Anderson of Gillette, Wyo. Abby was a camper at Rainbow years ago and said it was a privilege for her son to portray this special role. Caleb Clark, a former RBR wrangler and his girlfriend Angela Grace portrayed the roles of Joseph and Mary. Angels were the daughters of Tyson and Shiloh Hewitt, Adessa, Jalee, and Allie, as well as Julia Reinhold. Abby and Kahler Finn, Kirsten and Rachel Reinhold, and Josh Hunt were shepherds.

There was a hush as people crowded into the small barn and first saw the nativity. Silence fell for long moments, and then Larry Reinhold began to share the Christmas story. He told how the mother of Jesus and Joseph traveled so far for the census, and that the babe was born in a barn, among the animals.

The scene was so real. The words Reinhold shared so poignant, that most just stood in awe of being able to relive this wonderful event. Finally, Pastor Derek Anderson led the group in several Christmas carols and then Reinhold invited the little ones to come closer.

“Get right up here,” he said. “Do you want to get on Pumpkin (the pony)?” he asked. “Come close and see the baby.”

People lingered for long moments, taking it all in and then began to disperse, heading back to the main hall where refreshments were laid out. Laura and her sister Sarah on the flute played tune after tune. People were greeted outside the barn by the Cowboy Wisemen as they walked through the starlit night toward the hall.

Friends and neighbors, as well as complete strangers, gathered in the warmth of the hall to sit and eat and visit. Finally, small groups returned to their cars and drove away. 

Next year it will happen again. A different cast of nativity characters will take their places in Emanuel’s barn and tell the world’s greatest story.


Colleen Brunner is a freelance writer based in Newell, S.D. contact her at




Rainbow Bible Ranch