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A living celebration of faith

Nativity: Local congregations put together living nativity scenes around the holidays as ‘a gift to

Posted: December 10, 2010 10:40 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2010 4:55 a.m.

A local volunteer takes part in a living nativity scene that is put on each year by Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Canyon Country. This year marks the 16th year of the presentation, which is co-hosted by La Iglesia Celular del Valle.

 

Delicious hot chocolate, baby Jesus and a drive-thru display.

It may sound like an odd combination, but this is Bethlehem Lutheran Church’s recipe for a successful living nativity. 

This weekend marks the Canyon Country church’s 17th annual living nativity, called “Follow the Star.” The event is
organized by Bethlehem and La Iglesia Celular del Valle.

John and Rochelle Egan have produced the nativity for the last five years. It serves as a way for them to reach out to the community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Rochelle Egan said.

“Christmas is more than a baby in a manger,” John Egan said.

Each year, more than 250 volunteers help make the nativity. The volunteers range from small children up to 90-year-old participants that help with the building, acting, kitchen crew, traffic control and security. Church members organize a series of fundraisers and silent auctions throughout the year to pay for the event.

The event has drawn more than 6,000 attendees for the last five years. Spectators can drive through and at the end, they are offered cookies and hot cocoa accompanied by Christmas carolers.

A growing nativity
The nativity has grown from its original seven scenes to 12. The scenes range from “The Birth of Jesus,” “The Last Supper and the Crucifixion” to “Jesus’ Resurrection.”

“Our goal is to try to be as authentic as possible,” Rochelle Egan said. “Everyone loves to be in “The Last Supper” scene.

They really have fun with it. It gives them the chance to (be in) fellowship.”

Some scenes include farm animals like sheep, goats and donkeys.

Longtime volunteer Glenn Hermann has helped from the beginning. He is one of the original set designers. He’s proud of the opportunity it provides, and how much the nativity means to the church.

“This is a very powerful experience for people,” Hermann said. “We watch them cry because they have fully realized that Jesus died for them.”

A local tradition
Bethlehem reports attendees from as far as Palmdale, Bakersfield and Corona. Although the nativity lasts until 8:30 p.m., many times the presentation will continue until 9:30 p.m. because of the number of people still lined up waiting to view it.

“We don’t have the heart to turn anybody away,” Rochelle Egan said. “It means a lot that we are able to do this. It is a gift to the community.”

Some of their best memories include portraying Jesus and promoting for opening weekend.

“One year, I was Jesus and got to ride the donkey,” John Egan said.

Hermann has a memory of his own.

“Our first year, I went out to the corner of Soledad (Canyon Road) as a shepherd,” Hermann said. “I was waving people down to get them to check us out for the first time.”

The nativity has become a tradition for many. The Summerhill Villa senior community organizes a bus group each year.

They gather a big box of canned goods to donate and bring a bus full of people to the event.

“Every year, they are the first attendees,” Rochelle Egan said. “We even provide a tour guide for them.”

Many people will drive through with Christmas trees on top of their cars and the kids in their pajamas, Rochelle Egan said.
United Methodist display

Along with Bethlehem Lutheran Church, the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church has hosted a drive-thru nativity for some 27 years. This nativity originally started as a walk-through event with only one scene. It has grown to feature  six scenes.

“This is a true community event,” said Rob Peck, the event organizer. “This is our largest community outreach of the year.”

The Santa Clarita Methodist Church has volunteers from their church congregation, Boy and Girl Scouts and the Optimist Club.

This year they are excited to have a brand new feature, a live camel. The event will be held from 5:30-8 p.m Dec. 18 and 19.

“We are very proud of this event,” Peck said. “It conveys the true sense of the meaning of Christmas.”

The United Methodist Church event brings more than 400 cars. Church leaders offer each car a CD to play with music and Bible verses to help make the event more meaningful.

“We have a great location,” Peck said. “We are right on Bouquet Canyon (Road), so people driving around looking at Christmas lights see us and come through.”

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