Living Nativity Offers Glimpse into the First Christmas

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Nativity joe and mary225Church youth assume the roles of Joseph and Mary at the manger.Several West Michigan churches offer live nativity scenes each Christmas season – depictions of Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger on that first Christmas night. And the multi-church dramatic "Journey to Bethlehem" in Grand Haven is a supreme effort to tell the entire Christmas story.

But few individual churches put as much effort into such a display as Jenison Bible Church, on 14th Ave. at 44th St. in Hudsonville.

For the second consecutive year the church hosted a walking journey which led visitors from the prophet Isaiah who foretold Jesus birth, to the empty cross where Jesus' mission of was completed.

"We've looked for activities that allow us to introduce ourselves to the community while at the same time giving them the truth as to what we're all about," said visitation pastor Lee Buer.

"This living nativity is one of those ideas."


This year's program was completed on Dec. 12-14 on a large lot just east of the church building. Groups of visitors were led by tour guide/narrators to the various locations – Isaiah, the angel and Mary, the Wise Men, Shepherds, the stable and the cross.

Costumed actors assumed the familiar roles, several with speaking lines but most of the words came from the narrator. There was scripture shared at every stop.

Fires as well as luminaries marked the path along the Biblical journey. There was even a star near the horizon marking the place where Jesus lay.

One of the tour guides was church member Nicky Potter. "It takes a lot to get something like this going, but it's such a fun thing," she told a reporter during the Sunday evening program.

Included along the way are live animals - even a donkey and mini-horses in the stable with Joseph, Mary and the baby. You could watch the multitude of angels appear to the shepherds as they are caring for their flock.

Cart rides are offered to visitors for whom the distance may be too far to walk.

"Last year I think we had around 140 volunteers," said youth pastor Charlie Grimaldi who spearheaded the effort. "This year it's more than that."

Among that number were around 50 church youth.

"It's great for the church body life," he noted. "Moms and dads and kids working together – older people of the church with the younger. Service builds fellowship."

After last year's cold and snowy Living Nativity drew around 700 persons, Grimaldi estimated that more than a thousand saw this year's damp but milder version over the three evening sessions.


Grimaldi, who had been at Jenison Bible for 18 years, notes multiple purposes for the major effort in the living nativity.

"We want those who don't know Christ or know him only as a baby born at Christmas to get to the cross," he said. "And Christian people who go through this can be reminded – another chance to hear the truth."

Each living nativity tour ends inside the church fellowship area for refreshments and conversation during which new relationships can blossom.

Look for the event to be repeated during next year's Christmas season.
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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