SIDNEY — Sidney First Church of the Nazarene, 1899 Wapakoneta Avenue, is presenting their 20th Live Nativity at the church, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11 from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Twenty years ago, a member of the congregation, Russ Martin, brought up the idea of a live Nativity and, pastor at the time, Mike McClure, helped make it happen.
Starting with only a few scenes, the story is now told through nine scenes around the parking lot from Mary and Joseph finding the Inn and the birth of Jesus to present day Christmas celebrations with over 180 volunteers. There are cast members of all ages, animal herders, traffic coordinators, costumers, cooks and more making the whole experience a family affair. The volunteers also range from newbies to those who have been around for 20 years.
In 2015, Devan O’Connell, of Anna Boy Scout Troop No. 301 completed his Eagle Scout project by refurbishing many of the 4-foot by 8-foot flats comprising the background of the Nativity scenes. With the help of church members, they also repaired some of the other scenery as well.
Pastor Chad Wilson, who has been at the Church for 13 years, says the Nativity has never been canceled and the weather has fluctuated from extreme cold to 40° weather and wet. He noted that “it’s nice if there’s a chill in the air and maybe a little snow, because that gets the people out and into the Christmas spirit.”
“It’s a team effort,” said Wilson. “The congregation wanted to be an aspect within the community to put Christ in the spotlight at Christmas.” It takes three weekends for the project with set up, performance, and tear down—put away!
The mission of the church is to know Christ and to make him known. “This helps govern all the ministries of the church,” said Wilson. “And the live Nativity is our community outreach. Whether you go to church or don’t go to church, you can pull your car onto the grounds and be reminded of why we are celebrating Christmas.”
“This one event gets a large number of our congregation to work together whether they’re in a scene, directing traffic, or inside making hot chocolate, they’re doing our mission and having a good time.”
When a car enters the parking lot, they are handed a CD with narration of the scenes as you drive through or you can listen to it on your smart phone from their website. The church purchased a small piece of land to the north a few years ago, so now there is entrance and exit driveways for the Nativity. Traffic is asked to enter from the north off Wapakoneta Avenue.
There is a cast of actors in costume and one of the highlights are the live camels that appear with the Wise Men and King Herod. Donkeys, goats, cattle, and reindeer also appear in other scenes.
This is the church’s gift to the community and they would like to invite people to come celebrate their 20 years of keeping Christ the center of Christmas. It’s never too early to start a new family tradition. “In 2015 someone noted that they had been to the first live Nativity with their new baby and they have been coming every year,” said Wilson. “And their 19-year-old was now in the back seat enjoying the experience. Then, you have people who have never attended and tell you how much they enjoyed it.”
Even Santa makes an appearance acknowledging Christ is the center of Christmas and shows the work that Agape Distribution does in the community.
There is no charge to drive through the presentation, although donations will be accepted to help defer a few expenses.
The church has a new website, www.sidneyfirstnaz.org, and the congregation would also like to invite everyone who might be looking for a new church to attend one of their two Sunday morning services at 9:30 or 11 a.m.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.