Flickering lights in the darkness and a Roman centurion welcomed visitors as they arrived at Memorial United Methodist Church the weekend of Dec. 15.
From 6-8 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday, the community had the opportunity to experience the church’s 10th annual live nativity presentation with performers, music and refreshments. Family friendly and free, it was held both inside and outside on the church grounds.
Small groups were guided by a shepherd on a 20-minute tour through time to witness six events leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Performers in each scene dressed in period clothing and applicable scripture was read for each of the scenes. The audience could join in with the singing of Christmas hymns.
This was the second year for the Martinez family.
“I like seeing what people wore back then,” said Benito, 10. “It makes it more real.”
Diane Zastovnik, who was in charge of publicity and the tours, related that the community has responded enthusiastically with several hundred visitors throughout the two evenings.
“They appreciate the quiet simplicity of our event,” she said. “Many people come back every year. We have one visitor whose family is from Israel and he dresses in authentic clothing each time.
“People tell us that they are moved by the scenes. The [show] brings them the sense of the true meaning of Christmas away from the hustle and bustle and commercialism that is so rampant.”
The idea of a live nativity originated with former pastor, Denice Leslie, who had a drive-through nativity version at her former church in Butte County. The idea was to present a Christmas card – or gift – to the community as a walk-through version and to pay homage to the true meaning of Christmas.
“Each year we change things just a little, making improvements to help the story be more complete,” said Zastovnik. “We are thrilled that we have multi-ethnic, multi-lingual members who can convey the message that God’s message is for all the world. We even have members of the community who have come to the event and loved it so much that they are now participating as part of the production.”
The congregation was encouraged to participate and share their talents: Connie Alfaro decorated the sets and cast the characters; LaDonna Snow of Snowflake Designs made most of the costumes; Ron Zastovnik was the technician who developed the lighting and sound; the choir provided most of the singers; the United Methodist Women and Nurses served the refreshments and Rick and Sharon Hutchinson provided hundreds of hot dogs.
Music composed for the live nativity was by Scott Hatfield and English narration was by Rev. Newell Knudson. Narration in Hmong, Korean and Spanish was available.
After the tour, there was time to relax and reflect, have something to eat and visit with Pastor Janette Saavedra and other guests.
For additional information on church services or calendar of activities, visit www.mem-umc.org