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Volunteers help drive local living nativity events

Church grows to eight-scene set, while another cancels

Posted: December 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita United Methodist Church volunteers re-enact the birth of Jesus Christ in one of eight scenes in a living nativity presentation last weekend.

 

More than 400 cars passed through the parking lot of the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church on Bouquet Canyon last weekend to experience one of the valley’s longest-standing Christmas traditions, the church’s annual living nativity.

The church has hosted a version of this event since 1982. It began as a one-scene walk-up tableaux depicting the nativity of Jesus Christ and has expanded to an eight-scene drive-through event, complete with a self-guided CD including Bible verses and Christmas carols.

Traditionally, the drive-through nativity is held every year on the weekend preceding Christmas. This year, the church moved the event up a weekend. Over the last 30 years, the church has only had to cancel the event once — due to heavy rains.

“This is our gift to the community,” said Candy Holsenbeck-Smith, director of Christian education at the church and original creator of the event. “We want to offer the Christmas story to everyone.”

The event requires the help of more than 200 volunteers to build, assemble and act in scenes.

“It is a lot of hard work,” said Pastor Melissa MacKinnon. “Volunteers put in a lot of hours to do this, but it is such a joy to be a part of and to share the Christmas story with the community.”

This year, in light of the tragic shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, the church decided to participate in the “Light Up the Sky for Hope” movement.

During the nativity Saturday and Sunday, candles were lit around the church marquee sign, check-in and check-out tables to commemorate the lives lost.

Across town, another long-standing Christmas tradition was nowhere in sight. Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Canyon Country typically hosts a similar living nativity drive-through event called “Follow the Star.” This year, the church was forced to cancel the production.

After 18 years of hosting an event that often featured live animals, hundreds of volunteers, music, refreshments for attendees and a canned food drive, Bethlehem was forced to cancel this year’s event after many regular volunteers and “key technical” volunteers moved away or began attending other churches.

“It wasn’t a financial decision; we just didn’t have enough people to put it on this year,” said Pastor John Koczman. “It’s not because we didn’t believe in what we were doing or don’t love the community. We really are brokenhearted over it.”

Koczman says the church will re-evaluate the event for next year, possibly reaching out to other churches to determine if they are willing to participate in a joint event, but it is unclear at this time whether the event will be held next year.

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