A Christmas Gift

Eleven years ago, a member at The Church at Palisades suggested the congregation try a living nativity for Christmas.

Today, the church’s Living Nativity, complete with drama, torches, Roman soldiers and live animals, continues. Hundreds of people come out, rain or shine, no matter what’s going on in the world, to experience The Church at Palisades’ annual holiday presentation.

“Even last night (Dec. 16), with horrible, horrible weather, we had about 150 people,” Pastor Billy Arnold said.

About half of the church’s roughly 600-member congregation participates in the nativity in some way, whether helping in the parking lot, baking cookies for refreshments, singing in the choir or dressing in costume.

Drama is one of the key components of The Church at Palisades Living Nativity.

The scenes are set up outdoors. Tour guides dressed in costume use torches to guide visitors to each station after dark. Men dressed as Roman soldiers ride horses through the nativity. It’s cold. Sometimes, like last Sunday evening, it rains.

That authenticity provides for a unique experience.

“You experience it under the elements,” Arnold said. “(Jesus) wasn’t born in a warm, cozy setting. He came into a very real world in a very real setting under Roman rule.”

The congregation has upgraded the nativity over the years to provide for a better show, but Arnold said nothing has been changed or added to the story of Jesus’ birth as it’s written in the Bible.

People who have been visiting the church’s Living Nativity since it started have essentially seen the same story, regardless of what else is going on in the world or how distracted they might become.

“Everybody’s busy,” Arnold said. “We have duties to keep life going, pay the bills ... suffer through the American recession and wars overseas.

“We do this presentation in good years and bad years. It’s a true story, no matter what’s going on ... whether we’re getting fat and rich or getting laid off and going to war.”

Arnold said the Living Nativity is the congregation’s gift to the community. Admission is free and the congregation provides coffee, hot cocoa, cider and “lots and lots of cookies,” Arnold said. A choir sings during the tours so those waiting for the next tour to begin can enjoy the music.

It all comes together thanks to the members who volunteer their time to do it, Arnold said.

“It’s not an easy thing to donate a night,” he said. “We’re talking about giving up an evening in December leading right up to Christmas.

“Last night was the worst ever as far as the weather,” he said. “The show must go on. They have a good heart. They do it for all the right reasons.”

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