For a 91st year, little angels and live animals converged Sunday on historic Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport for a spirited portrayal of the Christmas Nativity.

A cast of nearly 60 youngsters, joined by mostly well-behaved sheep, goats and ponies, entranced a sanctuary full of family and friends for the pageant of the baby Jesus’ birth told in music and traditional text.

“It’s been a longstanding tradition of this church,” said the Rev. Matt Lindeman, Trinity’s assistant rector, “so this is the 91st iteration of this.”

He said that it’s a special observance, in part, because, “No matter what’s going on in the world, this happens.”

“The Christmas story as we understand it in the Christian faith is God’s light coming into the world,” he added. Celebrating that “helps us stay grounded in a kind of stressful time.”

For most of the kids involved, however, the pageant has a simpler meaning.

“It’s fun to re-enact Jesus’s birth,” said Whitney Bartol, 11, who portrayed one of the Three Wise Men.

“It’s really fun and the songs are cool,” said James Martere, 12, who played Joseph.

“I think I started at about 4 years old,” said Jeff Dutter, who grew up with the pageant and now, at age 19, served as the Storyteller. “It’s been so many years and (I’ve) seen the pageant change in so many ways.”

But while some things about the pageant evolve, many things stay the same, including the spirit of camaraderie and holiday sharing.

“It’s nice to get everyone involved,” he said, “and it’s the kids’ moment. It really is one of the icons of transition into the Christmas spirit.”

“It shows the true spirit of Christmas with the emotions and expressions,” said parent Michele Martere. “And it’s just a beautiful story with the live animals. It really puts you in the Christmas spirit.”

“I love it,” said Alissa Smith, a church youth coordinator. “I’ve been doing it since I was 5.”

“There’s a lot of tradition,” said the Rev. Peggy Hodgkins, the Trinity rector. “Some of the grandparents here were in the show when they were little, so it’s very special to them.”

“For me it’s my Christmas present for myself,” said Cathy Anderson, who co-directs the pageant. “I love hearing the angelic voices of these children. They have amazing energy and love for tradition.”

“It’s the good news story that everyone can share,” she said, “and I think we can all use some good news in our lives.”